I’m not much of a talk radio guy. On my weekly trips to Milwaukee I usually tune in a jazz or folk station on the Internet.
But it’s worth giving a listen to a segment of the Charlie Sykes show from last week. Sykes is a conservative Milwaukee radio host with a lot of influence among Republican legislators.
And he comes down against the bike tax. Moreover, he even adopts one of our reasons for opposing it: that it alienates an important Wisconsin industry. He quotes figures we use all the time: that the industry accounts for $1.5 billion in economic activity and is responsible for 14,000 jobs.
Sykes picks up on our argument that legislators who generally oppose all taxes, especially on business, shouldn’t be singling out one industry for taxation. Your contacts to legislators and strong opposition from Trek and bicycle shops already weakened any support for the bike tax. Sykes’ opposition may seal its fate.
But it goes beyond just the bike tax. The Complete Streets repeal and the cut of all state funds for bicycle and pedestrian projects as well as state trails is another set of affronts to the bike industry.
Why would a state government that frets about our business climate want to go out of its way to put a sharp stick in the eye of people who create so many jobs here?
Trek. Saris. Pacific Cycle. Madrax. Planet Bike. None of these businesses need to be in Wisconsin. They could all go someplace else. And, in fact, in the case of the biggest among them, Trek, that company might be better off in a lot of ways in a place that was closer to major travel hubs and where it was easier to recruit top talent.
Most of these businesses are only here because of personal family ties to the state. If Richard Burke hadn’t chosen Waterloo as Trek’s home base simply because it was halfway between his home in the Milwaukee suburbs and his then business partner in Madison the nation’s most prestigious bike company wouldn’t be here.
So when state government goes out of its way to poke the bike industry they’re playing a reckless game with jobs and productivity. That’s not about being open for business.
Note: It now appears that the Joint Finance Committee will take up the bike tax, complete streets, TAP and the Stewardship Fund late on Friday if not later in the weekend.