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The Portland Street Tax--It Just Keeps on Taking and Taking

Oregon Capitol Watch Foundation (OCWF) is one of many organizations in Oregon that monitor the policies that come out of the state's legislature. Of particular concern this session is the gas tax increase. The Taxpayer Association of Oregon has been monitoring the Portland street fee debate and was involved in educating Portland residents about the possible "public vote" that Mayor Charlie Hales and Councilman Steve Novick were touting.

When Hales suddenly nixed that plan and announced that the legislature is considering a gas tax increase and that Portland would likely benefit from that--it caught OCWF's attention. There were reports that Governor Kitzhaber and House Majority Leader, Tina Kotek, actually contacted Mayor Hales during a city council meeting and told him to stand down efforts to raise local taxes for road maintenance. Now it appears Hales and Novick are in cahoots with the state legislature to raise gas taxes. Gas taxes not just on Portland residents to pay for Portland roads, but on all Oregonians to pay for Portland roads. OCWF is paying attention.

OCWF's concern with these actions on the part of elected officials stems from the failure of Hales and Novick to earn the trust of the public to raise taxes for road maintenance because their past actions have been to raid road funds for pet arts projects and city "beautification" projects.


When Portland citizens demanded that Hales and Novick produce documentation to back up "the need" for a city income tax, citizens were given nothing. After several public records requests, the documentation that was produced was fraught with misinformation and bad bookkeeping. It revealed their plan would have held harmless some of the largest road users in Portland thereby unfairly affecting middle and low income residents. To put it simply, this plan was a mess from the start.

OCWF will be very active this session with many public outreach projects to make sure that Oregonians are aware of policies coming out of Oregon's legislature and what will be harmful to a majority of Oregonians.

What should Mayor Hales and Councilman Novick do instead? Tighten the city's belt, allocate more money from current funds to fix high priority streets, show the public elected officials can be trusted again.

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