Portland, Ore., voters approve gas tax extension
May 26, 2020
Voters in the city of Portland, Ore., overwhelmingly approved the extension of a 10-cent per gallon tax on local gasoline sales. The city already has the distinction as having the highest local gas rate in the state.
Originally approved in May 2016, more than three-quarters of voters this month approved passage of Measure 26-209. The measure’s passage authorizes Portland to continue to collect the gas tax for another four years.
The dime rate now collected was set to expire at the end of this year. At that time, the tax was estimated to have raised $77 million over four years.
Renewal of the tax is estimated to raise another $74.5 million through 2024.
Portland’s companion truck tax
The vote follows a city council decision early this year to renew a four-year-old tax on trucks. The 3% local heavy-vehicle use tax is a companion to the local gas tax.
Since enacted, the truck tax has raised $11 million. Revenue is used for street work and safety projects.
Described by the Oregon Trucking Association as a “double tax,” the truck tax is up from 2.8% from the version approved by council members in 2016. The extension runs through 2024.
The taxes collected on cars and trucks are billed as helping the city address a road repair backlog.
The revenue from the city-level tax, however, is not applied solely for road projects. The same rule applies to the extension.
A little over half of the revenue will be allotted for road paving and pothole repair. The rest will be used for other safety improvements that include traffic signals, crossings and sidewalks.
Opponents said Portland would be better served to make sure all existing revenues are being used appropriately before enacting new revenue measures. Another complaint is the ballot question did not put enough money into roads.
Supporters said putting money into pedestrian improvements could have a higher economic return for the city than pavement maintenance. They cited the city’s use of biking, walking and public transit as delivering economic returns.
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