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Novick: Tax heavy truck companies for roads


The City Council will consider enacting a Heavy Vehicle Use Tax on Wednesday. It is intended to help pay to repair the disproportionate amount of road damage caused by heavy vehicles in Portland.

Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick had promised to bring such a funding source to the council when it agreed to place the temporary 10-cent-a-gallon city gas tax on the May 17 Primary Election ballot. The proposed four-year tax does not apply to the diesel fuel used by heavy trucks because there is only one diesel fueling station in Portland, and Novick was afraid truckers would simply bypass it if such a tax were enacted.

The ordinance introduced by Novick would impose the tax on businesses that have a Portland business license and pay Oregon's weight-mile tax. It would tax the amount they pay the state 2.8 percent to raise an estimated $2.5 million a year.

"Due to the fact that a relatively small number of businesses account for most of the heavy truck activity and therefore most of the costs associated with heavy trucks, most businesses will pay a relatively small amount. On the flip side, a handful of very large trucking businesses will pay more based on their volume of trucking activity," reads the ordinance.

The proposed gas tax, Ballot Measure 26-173, would raise an estimated $64 million over four years. After expenses, most of the money would go to road repairs, with slightly less than half going to safety projects.

Meanwhile, in the weeks leading up to the primary election, supporters of the city gas tax have been announcing additional backers. They now include affordably housing advocates, including representatives from the Oregon Opportunity Network, Community Alliance of Tenants, PCRI, Orange Splot development, ROSE Community Development and OPAL - Environmental Justice Oregon.

“Portland’s tenants are struggling, and this temporary gas tax directs resources to build safer and more reliable streets in neighborhoods where tenants are struggling with Portland’s affordability crisis. We support the gas tax as an investment in economic stability for vulnerable residents to safely get around town,” said Justin Buri, executive director of the Community Alliance of Tenants.

You can read the ordinnace at http://www.portlandoregon.gov/auditor/article/575046

The campaign supporting the gas tax, Fix Our Streets Portland, has so far reported raising around $126,000 in cash and in-kind contributions.

The main organization opposing the measure, the Oregon Fuels Association PAC, has so far reported raising about $114,000 this year.