Payroll tax comes with push to expand light rail

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Funding for proposed expansion includes payroll tax up to 0.75% for business with 25+ workers

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Next week, Portland-area residents will vote on Get Moving 2020, a proposed transportation funding measure that would expand the light rail system from Portland to Tigard.

If Get Moving 2020–also known as Measure 26-218–passes, up to 17 primary travel routes could be upgraded and more than 150 projects overall would be put in motion. Besides an extension of light rail, safety improvements would be made along TV Highway and McLoughlin Boulevard.

But a yes vote would also allow Metro to collect a payroll tax of up to 0.75% from businesses who employ more than 25 workers. Collections would begin in 2022 but no end date has been established.

There is a growing opposition to the measure — mostly from businesses who say a tax increase under the current circumstances would deliver another financial blow.

“We are in the midst of a 100 year economic storm,” said Andrew Hoan of the Portland Business Alliance. “Any additional cost to the things we all care about most–wages, healthcare, retirement plans–is an enormous burden not just to businesses trying to keep their doors open but also to their employees who might be going paycheck to paycheck right now and seeing their wages and benefits cut.”

Others argue the investment needs to be made.

“I am sympathetic to the businesses that have failed,” said Keith Wilson, President of Titan Freight Systems. “I have friends, neighbors who are out of work. But I do know this shall pass. This tax doesn’t kick in until January 1, 2022 but we can start building these projects sooner than that.”

Measure 26-218 would also fund a rapid bus system, bridge repair and replacement sidewalks and pedestrians on several major streets in the metro area.

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