PORTLAND, Ore. – As if the discussion of a street fee to fix Portland’s huge backlog of transportation woes hasn’t been interesting enough, now city leaders say they will discuss the idea of a sales tax.
Oregon has no state sales tax; voters have turned it down nine times at the ballot. No city in the state has an across-the-board sales tax that includes anything but unprepared foods.
Still, the city council voted 4-1 in favor of allowing the discussion of alternatives to a street fee, including a sales tax.
Commissioner Steve Novick suggested considering a sales tax of up to 1/2 cent. It could be as low as 1/4 cent per dollar. “I thought that I needed to bring up the fact that a quarter cent sales tax would be less than $12 a month,” said Novick.
Twelve dollars a month is the amount most households would ultimately pay under the street fee proposal. A taxpayer advocacy group spoke out against a sales tax for the city.
“When people start talking about a sales tax, watch out, because it’s a tax that hurts people who are not working, disabled people and senior citizens on a limited income,” said Jason Williams, the Executive Director of Taxpayer Association of Oregon.
Novick countered that a sales tax may be more equitable because people with more money spend more than people with less. And the commissioner made it clear he hasn’t decided what’s best. But he’s willing to discuss anything that pays to fix Portland's city streets and make them safer.