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UPDATE: Proposed May primary election measure will create 1% tax on the incomes of wealthier people and larger businesses.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Polls show homelessness is the top issue for voters in the region.Metro is on the verge of asking its voters to approve first-ever regional income taxes to fund homeless programs at the May 19 primary election.

PMG graphic

The Metro Council is expected to vote to refer the measure to the ballot on Tuesday, Feb. 25. It is called the "Supportive Housing Services Ballot Measure." Details were released Sunday evening and are now posted on the meeting's web page.

If approved by Metro voters, the measure will:

• Raise $250 million a year for homeless programs, including rent subsidies, mental health services and addiction treatment.

• Impose a 1% tax on the incomes of individuals earning more than $125,000 a year and couples earning more than $200,000 a year.

• Impose a 1% tax on the incomes of businesses with gross receipts more than $5 million a year.

• Allow Metro to keep 5% of the revenue for administrative purposes in addition to collection costs.

• Distribute 45.3% of the remaining money to Multnomah County, 33.3% to Washington County, 21.3% to Clackamas County, which will provide it to nonprofit homeless service providers.

• Create a Supportive Housing Services Regional Oversight Committee to oversee the spending.

• Require a public process to create implementation plans by each county that must be approved by the Metro Council.

• Require another public vote in 10 years continue the program.

The EcoNorthwest consulting firm estimates that the personal income tax could raise approximately $169 million from 2020 income. They estimate that the business profits tax could raise approximately $79 million from 2020 net income.

Tom Cusack, a housing expert who previously worked for the federal government, estimates the personal income taxes will apply to 59,000 tax filers, which is about 7% of all files in Metro's jurisdiction.

The measure was originally requested by the HereTogether advocacy organization, which originally asked for up to $300 million a year. The request is supported by Mayor Ted Wheeler and the chair of all three counties in Metro's boundaries. Numerous polls show that homelessness is easily the top priority issue for voters in the region.

Three items relating to the measure are currently on the agenda for the Metro Council's Feb. 25 meeting. One is a resolution recognizing the funding framework proposed by HereTogether, another is an ordinance imposing the personal income tax, and the third is a resolution referring the tax to the May ballot.

The regional income taxes expected to be proposed by Metro would be virtually unprecedented. TriMet charges a personal income tax on self-employed residents in addition to a payroll tax on businesses. The only city in the region that currently charges a personal income tax is Portland, which charges a $35 art tax on residents who earn more than the poverty level. Portland and Multnomah County charge business income taxes, while Washington and Clackamas counties do not. Most other cities impose business license fees, some based on the size of the businesses.

You can find the measure here.

You can read a previous Portland Tribune story on the issue here.


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