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Council undecided on Hales' proposed business tax increase


The City Council is undecided on Mayor Charlie Hales' proposal to increase the city's Business License Fee to 2.5 percent to help fund public safety, homeless and affordable housing services.

Hales included the proposal in the proposed budget for the next fiscal year he released on Monday. Since then, commissioners Steve Novick and Dan Saltzman have both come out against it, saying it does not appear to be needed because city revenues are increasing at record levels.

Now commissioners Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz have both told the Portland Tribune they do not have enough information to make up their minds.

Fish emailed the Tribune from a family vacation to say he needs to talk with Hales, the rest of the council, and small business owners and organizations before deciding. He is returning to town next week.

And Fritz emailed to say she will not not decide until after hearing public testimony on it.

"As usual, I will wait to decide how I will vote on the proposed Budget until I've considered public testimony. I have heard from many Portlanders (including many business owners) that they want more services for housing, police, and parks. The budget process is set up to engage our community in deciding what services Portlanders want, and how we want to pay for them. The hearing on the Mayor's proposed budget is next Thursday in the evening. I expect a robust community discussion before, during and after that hearing," Fritz said.

The 0.3 percent increase is estimated to raise $8.7 million a year.

The Portland Business Alliance has come out against the increase, saying it makes "no sense" since city revenues are increasing, among other things.

Hales estimates the increase will be paid by approxmately 25,000 Portland businesses, while many others would be exempt because they are so small. Hales is also proposing to increase the Owners Compensation Deducation would be raised to $125,000 from $100,000, giving more than 2,000 a tax break.

It will take three votes on the council to approve the increase.

A previous Portland Tribune story on the proposed budget can be read at pamplinmedia.com/pt/9-news/304714-182850-business-group-says-hales-fee-increase-makes-no-sense.