Chamber opposes new taxes in light of COVID-19
On Wednesday, March 18, the North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted to oppose the proposed Metro Homeless Services Bond that is slated to appear on the May ballot and if approved imposes a personal higher earners income tax and a business profit tax.
This chamber acknowledges the fact that there is a need for services for individuals in housing crises and appreciates the effort to address the problem, but this measure is not the appropriate way to address the problem.
Based on facts ascertained from the presentation provided our chamber during a March 2 presentation from the Here Together Coalition, additional facts gleaned from Ordinance no. 20-1442 issued by Metro and from the concerns discussed amongst the business community present at the meeting, it was determined that the bond does not provide enough substantiated facts that warrant support.
The chamber has frequently supported local tax measures. However, the Metro measure lacks the key features that led to the chamber's support of those other measures: A broad-based revenue source and a thoughtful spending plan created with substantial community and business participation.
Metro was unable to provide a business plan that clarified how tax revenues will be accounted for in a transparent manner, the services to be provided and by whom and demonstrate that they have the operating infrastructure (technology, management and reporting to ramp up, scale and run a service of this size across three counties). They lack a viable business plan to address the needs that we all agree are in our communities. As business owners and leaders, we believe good, clearly articulated business plans are essential to the success of every new venture. We agree there is a high need to support our homeless population, but rushing a bond measure to vote without a clear plan creates risks we believe can be mitigated by a more open conversation with the regional chambers and creating a detailed and executable plan. The need in the community does not go away but the need for professional planning is paramount. The chambers and their businesses would welcome a seat at the planning table.
Homelessness is a community problem, but the measure imposes the cost of addressing the problem only on businesses and its most successful employees.
Metro lacks a track record of success in implementing social services measures like this and did not reach out to many members of the business community until Metro had already made the decision to refer the measure.
Furthermore, we are concerned about the stacking of taxes proposed on the May and November 2020 ballots. This tax does not take into account the cumulative effect of taxes on businesses and their employees that have already been passed in previous legislation and that are likely to be proposed for the May and November elections. Consumers are already experiencing the trickle-down effect of the new Corporate Activities Tax (CAT) and this too, will trickle down.
Businesses assessed this new 1% tax on net profits have already paid the tax at the gross receipts level through the CAT tax. This is a tax on the same dollar that has already been taxed.
Lastly, in light of recent events, we are now hearing from businesses across the state who are struggling to cope with the economic crisis due to COVID-19. Retail stores are empty; restaurants are closing; hotels are at single-digit capacity. Our local businesses are struggling. And on top of this, Multnomah County (one of the Metro counties) is moving forward with a business income tax increase later this month. Postponing this new personal income and business tax is the prudent course of action until we can better understand the severe economic impact of the COVID-19 disaster. Our regional governing body should work with the local business community to identify ways to support residents and small businesses in the months ahead, not find new ways to tax them as we enter a recession.
Laura Edmonds is CEO of the North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce.
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