PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Voters in Multnomah County will decide on 2 tax measures in the May 19 primary, one to renew the Portland gas tax and the other to provide money for homeless services.
In late February, the Metro Council approved Measure 26-210 for the May ballot — a 1% tax on a person making $125,000 per year or couples making $250,000 per year, as well as a 1% tax on businesses making more than $5 million a year.
The measure is expected to provide $250 million a year to organizations that fight homelessness, Metro officials said.
Andrew Hoan, the President/CEO of the Portland Business Alliance, said homelessness is an issue the business community is passionate about tackling and said the way Measure 26-210 is structured is a good return on investment.
“The status quo is, frankly, unacceptable and so we’re moving past that,” Hoan told KOIN 6 News. “We wanted to see something that wasn’t just a Portland solution or wasn’t just a Gresham solution but was a cross-region solution that didn’t place undue burden on one county or the other and that had revenue streams that were going to be sustainable and responsive to down economies.”
Metro officials said taxes wouldn’t increase for 90% of the people and households in this region, and 94% of businesses wouldn’t see a tax increase, either.
But the CEO of the Gresham Chamber of Commerce, Lynn Snodgrass, is not in favor of this plan.
“The business will write the check but consumers and their employers will pay the tax,” she told KOIN 6 News. “The United States has a lot of successful programs for homelessness and not a single one of them was pointed out here. It’s like they’re experimenting with a brand new government bureacracy by raising taxes. This is a packet of ideas, not a packet of solutions.”
For the past 4 years, the 10-cents-per-gallon fuel tax has fueled funding for Portland streets. Now it’s up for renewal.
Steph Routh with Fix Our Streets explained why they believe this has made much more than a dime’s worth of difference.
“It has delivered on its promises to every single one of its projects,” Routh said. “It’s repaved 40 lane miles, it’s fixed over 400 sections of failing road, it’s connected miles of sidewalks and over 170 safety improvements in our system.”
But Portland economist Eric Fruits argues the tax should do more to benefit drivers.
“A lot of the projects are actually designed to make things worse for drivers,” Fruits said. “You’ve got money for the so-called Neighborhood Greenway plan, where priority is given to pedestrians and bicyclists.”
KOIN 6 News looked at the numbers and found about half the gas tax money goes to re-paving and maintaining streets.
“If you are paying the gas tax,” he said, “by the Oregon constitution it’s supposed to benefit the people who are paying the tax.”
Voters will decide on Tuesday.