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Tax measure would raise millions of dollars to help those in need of shelter or affordable housing in the Portland area.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Metro, the regional government, created Measure 26-210 to address homeless services throughout the urban tri-county area.

In the midst of historic economic uncertainty and record unemployment, Portland area voters nonetheless are overwhelmingly supporting a massive tax measure to help address the region's growing homeless population and lack of affordable housing.

Early returns show Measure 26-10 passing with about 57% of the vote.

Measure 26-210 would impose a 1% tax on individual incomes of more than $125,000; joint incomes higher than $200,000; and profits of businesses with incomes of more than $5 million. Related legislation approved by Metro defines homeless services to include rent assistance, job training, mental health treatment and addiction counseling.

Campaign consultant Keivn Looper said their polling showed that support at the ballot box was higher than in initial public opinion polls.

"The general rule of thumb is that you loose support during a campaign, so you hope to hold on," he said. "This was not a story of holding on. This is a story of people wanting a better community."

The HereTogether group, which first pushed for the measure, claimed it would raise $250 million in the first year. But that estimate was based on the pre-pandemic economy and before Oregon's history-busting increase in unemployment claims.

Measure 26-210 was supported by a wide array of business, labor and community organizations. But many others, including some business leaders, opposed the measure, saying the coronavirus pandemic and the impact on Oregon's economy made this the wrong time to impose a new tax on businesses and individuals.

Six months ago voters within the Metro boundary, by a 2-1 margin, approved a $475 million bond measure to fund habitat restoration and access to regional and local parks.


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