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Kevin Frisch: Bicycle tax to raise revenue?

Kevin Frisch

Way to go, New York! A state lawmaker goes through all the trouble of coming up with a brand new tax to help close our $10 billion deficit, and what do we do? We laugh him out of the Assembly.

Well ... OK, not outof the Assembly. We’ve had some pretty laughable characters in there and, for some reason, they’re awfully hard to get out. But we laughed him out of his new tax.

The lawmaker in question –– the question being, “How did he ever get to be a lawmaker?” –– is Democrat Michael DenDekker. He introduced a pair of bills — with his name on them, no less! — that would have required registration and miniature-sized license plates for bicycles. Those licenses would have cost $25 a pop.

Of course, the idea of licensing and registering such recreational modes of transportation could have opened up a whole new revenue stream, had it not the drawback of being utterly asinine. Skateboards, skis, in-line skates, toboggans, golf cats, Slip ’N Slides, boogie boards, little red wagons, hobby horses, go-carts, that little train at the county fair with the face that looks like a caterpillar, unicycles, pogo sticks, the elephant ride at the Renaissance Festival, canoes, water skis, Segways, Hippity Hops, shopping carts and uncles who give piggy-back rides are just a few of the many items that would cause dollar signs to appear in the eyes of tax-seeking state officials.

New York’s penchant for taxing, over-taxing and taxing again is, in fact, almost impossible to satirize. Going through my files, I found notes from May 2003 for an abandoned column on my own suggestions for new state taxes:

• State driver’s license photos to require signed modeling release forms, which will cost applicants $10.

• $7 exit fees at all state beaches and parks.

• $5 surcharge on hubcaps.

• Plastic shopping bags will now be returnable, with a deposit of 3 cents apiece.

• All professions, from teachers to musicians to professional athletes, will now require licenses. Annual licensing fees to vary from $35 (volunteer) to $1,400 (New York Yankee).

• Sale of naming rights to Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and Madison Square Garden.

Do any of these sound so incredibly far-fetched that they couldn’t find their way into New York’s tax laws?

In addition, and apologies to Assemblyman DenDekker –– even though he should be apologizing to us –– I jotted down this supposedly jocular proposal:

• All bicycles must now be licensed. Licensing fees range from $15 (tricycle) to $75 (bicycle built for two).

That’s right. Even when trying to be funny, you can’t concoct a tax ridiculous enough that it might not turn up as a serious proposal.

In New York, there’s a fine line between humor columnist and state lawmaker, and, some days, I’m not entirely sure which side of it I’m on.

Messenger managing editor Kevin Frisch’s column, Funny Thing ..., appears each Sunday in the Daily Messenger in New York. Contact him at (585) 394-0770, ext. 257, or via email at kfrisch@messengerpostmedia.com