After politicians make decisions, sometimes I hit my head and ask out loud, "What are they thinking?"
This is one of those times. Metro, the regional government, wants two new taxes equaling $250 million a year.
We have a homeless problem. Housing will help. But step one should be providing a comprehensive plan with proven measurable solutions to fix whatever the problem is that caused individuals to become homeless in the first place.
Metro did not take that direction when they decided to rush through its two new income taxes for housing vouchers and homeless services. The new taxes are projected to raise an eye-popping $250 million a year over the next 10 years. Yet, Metro has not provided the nuts and bolts of how the money would be spent.
What is the plan? How will the money be used? When? Where? All unknowns in the haste to get the new taxes on the May ballot.
What's the reason for the rush? They plan yet another huge bond in November for transportation. New housing and transportation tax measures on the same November ballot would be too obvious. Polling told them to split up the tax requests so voters won't notice.
A government agency — that has never built a single house and has no specific plan — is asking you to entrust it with millions of your dollars to grow a new bureaucracy.
Before business advances a new idea, it would approach the issue with detail — cost analysis, contingency plans, stages of development, how best to pay for it. Then, if it pencils out, they proceed.
Metro took the opposite approach — get the taxes on the May ballot quickly to get the money and then plan later how to spend it.
Eric Fruits, of the Cascade Policy Institute, in an opinion piece printed in The Outlook and other Pamplin Media publications in late February, further exposes the lack of oversight opportunity Metro claims will occur.
Those reasons and more were why the Gresham Area Chamber Government Affairs Council initially opposed the bond. A short time later, all heck broke loose — COVID-19. Now, even in the middle of a catastrophic financial situation, Metro is still pushing this new tax burden on both businesses and individuals via the May ballot.
"What are they thinking?"
Metro will tell you it has been working on this package for a long time. Well, there are thousands of businesses that have been working to stay in business for a long time. We all are facing new circumstances. Many longtime businesses might not make it through this crisis. But Metro doesn't seem to understand how fragile a dollar can be.
Metro's leadership claims it won't affect the small mom-and-pop shops and that only those wealthy enough, who can afford the personal tax, will pay. Who decided the difference between wealthy and not? A pollster?
In today's pandemic environment, every dime means something different than it did before our current circumstances. Yet when it comes to the tax appetite, governments are always hungry for more.
I don't know a single person who wants homelessness to continue. I've served on a homeless task force and understand the complexity. The problem affects our community, businesses and economic health. Yes, it is a human crisis that needs our constant attention.
But pushing two new taxes on businesses and individuals, especially during the catastrophic financial crisis the Covid-19 pandemic, is reckless and dangerous.
"What are you thinking?"
I'm thinking Metro has a bad plan. And it certainly has bad timing.
I urge you to say "no" to new taxes for Metro. Vote "no" on Measure 26-210.
Lynn Snodgrass is chief executive officer of the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce.
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