Portland, Ore., voters to decide in May on gas tax extension

April 28, 2020

Keith Goble

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Voters in the city of Portland, Ore., will decide next month whether to extend a 10-cent per gallon tax on local gasoline sales. The city has the distinction as having the highest local gas tax rate in the state.

Originally approved in May 2016 with a 51% margin, Measure 26-209 would continue collection of the gas tax for another four years.

The dime rate now collected is set to expire at the end of this year. By that time, the tax is estimated to have raised $77 million over four years.

Companion truck tax

The vote will follow 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.

Taxes use

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 would apply to an extension.

A little over half of the revenue would be allotted for road paving and pothole repair. The rest would be used for other safety improvements that include traffic signals, crossings and sidewalks.

Opponents say the city 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 does not put enough money into roads.

Supporters say putting money into pedestrian improvements could have a higher economic return for the city than pavement maintenance. They cite the city’s use of biking, walking and public transit as delivering economic returns.

Oregon elections are done entirely by mail. Ballots for the May 19 election are expected to be mailed on Wednesday, April 29. Voters can mail ballots with pre-paid postage back to county election officials or drop them off at a drop box in the area.

More Land Line coverage of news from Oregon is available.

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Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.