PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A referendum to bring a Salem payroll tax to a public vote needed just under 4,000 signatures to qualify for the upcoming ballot. It’s now reached more than 10,000.
Since June, the City Council has considered the Safe Salem Payroll Tax, which would implement an employee-paid payroll tax to generate “approximately $28 million annually to fund essential safety services, such as police, fire and homeless programs,” according to the city’s website.
The tax would apply to work performed within city limits, impacting everyone living and working in Salem – even commuters. The tax would not, however, apply to those making minimum wage.
On average, city officials say a worker in Salem would pay $1.39 per day. Petitioners say that decision should be made by the workers themselves.
Petitioners with Refer the Tax on Salem Workers say they expect even more signatures ahead of the petition’s Aug. 9 deadline. They’ll continue to receive signatures in an effort to meet the qualification threshold.
Angela Wilhelms, the president and CEO of Oregon Business and Industry, spearheaded the referendum.
“The Salem community has stepped up in a big way to make their voices heard and to ensure that residents have an opportunity to vote on this tax,” Wilhelms said.
She said there could be a higher-than-average number of invalid signatures on the petition due to confusion over who is eligible to sign it.
“There is understandably a lot of confusion about who can sign the petition due in large part to the complexities of the tax itself,” Wilhelms said. “For example, a lot of voters have a Salem address but do not live within the technical city limits. So, even if those folks work within the city and are subject to the tax, their signature would be invalid.
Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.