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Officials with five chambers of commerce in the region say raising taxes during the COVID-19 pandamic will hurt businesses

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Metro logo outside the headquarters of the elected regional government.The Metro Council has declined a request from five business organizations in the region to postpone its $250 million a year homeless services ballot measure because of fears of a looming recession.

The request was made to the council in a Monday, March 16, letter from officials with the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce, the North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce, the Oregon City Chamber of Commerce, the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce, and the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce.

"As representatives of Metro Area Chambers of Commerce, we call on Metro to withdraw your business and personal income taxes from the May 2020 ballot. Postponing these new taxes is the prudent course of action until we can better understand the severe economic impact of the COVID-19 disaster," reads the letter.

The Metro Council responded by email on Monday, March 17, by saying, "We remain committed to keeping this measure on the May ballot, and affording our region's voters an opportunity to come together to care for those experiencing chronic homelessness now — and create a safety net for those who may experience homelessness as a result of COVID-19's economic impact."

The measure would be funded by a 1% tax on individual incomes above $125,000, the incomes of joint filers above $200,000, and the profits of businesses that gross more than $5 million a years.

The council email said these rates ensure that the tax will only be paid by people and businesses who can afford to pay it.

"Approximately 94% of businesses in the region — all small and medium sized businesses with sales under $5 million a year — would be entirely exempt from the tax. Likewise, 90% of individual taxpayers would be exempt, with only the highest income earners paying on a portion of their incomes," the email said.

The email also noted that the largest chamber in the region, the Portland Business Alliance, has endorsed the measure.

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