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Portland voters say 'fill 'er up' to city gas tax

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TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZER - City Commissioner Steve Novick was cautiously optimistic the city gas tax increase would win after early votes were tabulated. Portland voters narrowly approved a 10 cent-per-gallon increase in the city gas tax.

The tax passed 77,617 to 72,120 in unofficial returns.

The four-year, 10 cent-per-gallon fuel tax dedicated to street repair is estimated to raise $64 million over the four years of its life span.

Steve Novick, who is the incumbent seeking re-election for City Council Position 4, sponsored the measure and contributed $25,000 of his re-election funds to the ballot measure campaign.

“For 30 years the city of Portland has failed to address our streets,” Novick said from his campaign party Tuesday night. “All you can do is take a shot — especially if the future of the city is at stake.

“I hope we win tonight,” he said of the tax. “But if not, there is always another election. In the words of 'Galaxy Quest,' ‘never give up, never surrender.'

TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZER - Aaron Brown, campaign leader for the gas tax effort, was pleased by early results showing the measure  is passing. “We spent the past two and a half years trying to get a funding source for street repair and traffic safety,” he said, “so I will be a lot happier if the gas tax passes and I have to go to November.”

A coalition of groups — business, environmental, teachers, neighborhood associations — have all come together to support the measure, believing the roads are a priority.

“We ran a strong campaign and believe a wide-swath of Portlanders have come together to invest in our streets,” said Aaron Brown, campaign manager for Fix Our Streets. “We are optimistic tonight’s results will continue to demonstrate that.” ?

The money generated through the tax would be used to repair damaged roads throughout the city, as well as create safer crossings and sidewalks. All motor vehicles would be subject to the tax, except trucks already paying the weight-mile tax.

Twenty-two Oregon cities and counties have enacted local gas taxes and 30 have implemented transportation utility fees. Portland’s 10-cent tax would be the largest in the state if passed.