Transportation bill includes money for local projects
A transportation package that will bring $591,000 in new gas tax money to Forest Grove and $301,000 to Cornelius is headed to Gov. Kate Brown for a signature after the Senate passed the bill 22-to-7 Thursday, July 6. The House of Representatives passed the bill 39-to-20 Wednesday, July 5.
"This is a critical and most important piece of legislation. This piece of legislation is what the 2017 session will be known for 20, 30, 40 years from now," said Sen. Rod. Monroe, D-Portland, one of 14 lawmakers who crafted the plan, which will raise $13 million for Washington County and $5.3 billion statewide.
Gaston will get $16,000 and Banks $45,000 for their own projects.
Due to tax hikes and new taxes, the bill required a three-fifths majority vote in each chamber, according to the Oregon Constitution.
The 10-year plan includes hikes in the gas tax, registration and title fees and new taxes on payroll, new vehicle purchases and certain bicycles.
The package also calls for congestion-priced tolling at some of the Portland area's bottlenecks. The Oregon Transportation Commission is responsible for establishing the program, which could collect tolls in certain lanes on Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 to pay for congestion-busting projects.
Roughly $100 million will go toward congestion relief on Highway 217. Other such projects include widening northbound Interstate 205 from Powell Boulevard to Interstate 84 and initial investment in adding new lanes to Interstate 5 through Portland's Rose Quarter.
Lawmakers had downsized the transportation funding bill from $8.2 billion to $5.3 billion as part of a deal between Democrats and Republicans to win enough votes for the plan, dramatically shrinking some of those Portland-area investments.
The Rose Quarter project declined from at least $400 million to $30 million.
And the Interstate 205 project declined from $452 million to just $30.7 million.
The plan also includes other projects around the state. Senators each received a summary Thursday, July 6, of what projects in their respective districts are included.
The plan hikes the state's existing 30-cent gas tax gradually over a seven-year period to a total of 40 cents. Registration fees would climb by $13 and title fees by $16 in 2018. Beginning in 2020, the state would move toward a tiered system of registration and title fees based on a vehicle's gas mileage.
The plan also levies a 0.5 percent tax on the purchase of new vehicles. About $12 million of the revenue from the proceeds of the vehicle excise tax would be used for rebates on the purchase of electric vehicles.
A $15 flat fee would be charged on the purchase of new adult bicycles with a price tag of more than $200. The proceeds of that would go toward paying for commuter bicycle and pedestrian paths.
New bill creates more jobs
Three state agencies expect to hire 60 positions and spend $115.2 million to execute the transportation funding bill.
The positions and agency spending limits cover levying and collecting new taxes and fees, managing and reporting on transportation projects, overseeing an electric vehicle rebate program and processing a surge of storm water permits.
The spending bill includes:
• $110.9 million and 50 positions for the Oregon Department of Transportation for direct project costs and project-related studies in the first six months of the next two-year state budget cycle,
• $3.9 million and eight positions for the Department of Revenue to levy new taxes on payroll to pay for transit, car and bicycle excise taxes and hikes in the gas tax.
• $389,122 and two positions for the Department of Environmental Quality to establish a rebate program for low- and moderate-income residents who purchase low-emission and electric vehicles and to handle a greater workload with an influx of storm water permitting.
Capital Bureau Claire Withycombe contributed to this story.