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A new poll says most Portlanders are against the proposed street fee, think it should be referred to the voters, and will vote against Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick if they try to prevent city residents from voting on it.


Those are the highlights of a poll commissioned by the Oregon Small Business Association, lobbyist Kent Craford, and others about the street fee proposed by Hales and Novick. It was conducted by Riley Research between Nov. 24 and 28, and released on Dec. 2 — the day before the City Council is scheduled to consider adding a six-year sunset clause to the proposal. The final vote is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 10.

According to the new poll's executive summary:

• Nearly two-thirds of likely voters in the City of Portland are opposed to the new personal income and business taxes (63%), including 50% who strongly oppose the proposed new tax. Only 26% support of the street fee, and 11% are undecided.

• Likely voters age 18-34 were slightly more likely to support the proposed taxes (34%), although a plurality of voters in that age group oppose it (47%). Pre-retirement voters (those 55-64) were most likely to oppose the new tax (72%).

• More than eight-in-ten voters (83%) feel that the decision about whether or not to implement the new tax should be referred to the voters, including 71% who strongly support referring the decision to the voters. About one-in-eight voters support a decision by the council alone (13%), and only 4% were undecided on the issue.

• The referral-to-voters option is favored by 76% of Democrats and by more than 90% of those representing all other political stripes.

• Some two-thirds of voters (65%) would be less likely to support the re-election of Hales and Novick, should they decide to block a referral of the new tax to a vote of the people (including 49% who would be much less likely to support their reelection). Just 3% of voters saying they would be more likely to re-elect them, while 31% indicated that this issue would make no difference. While 58% of Democrats would be less likely to re-elect Hales and Novick, 38% said it would make no difference.

Novick says the questions were biased against the proposal, however. For example, he says one said the money would go to a bureaucracy instead of needed projects.

"It's a joke. Look at the way they phrased it. Of course people aren't going to support additional money for a 'transportation department.' They will support funding for street maintenance and safety. Our polls showed that between 50 and 60 percent of Portlanders will support a progressive income tax for maintenance and safety. The personal questions about the Mayor and myself are a crass attempt to intimidate us and stop us from trying to maintain the streets, and make it safer for children to walk to school and for seniors to walk to bus stops. We're not going to stop," says Novick.

Hales and Novick are insisting the council approve the fee without putting it on the ballot. They have changed their proposal completely since it was first introduced in May to address public criticisms. It now includes two ordinances. One creates a progressive personal income tax as the residential portion. The other creates a sliding scale for businesses, governments and nonprofit organizations as the non-residential portion.

Officially called the Portland Street Fund, the revised proposal is intended to raise $46 million a year for maintenance and safety projects, minus administrative costs. Fifty-eight percent of the available funds will be spent on maintenance and 42 percent will be spent on safety improvements.

The proposal is opposed by a number of business leaders and organizations, including the Portland Business Alliance. It is supported by leaders of several advocacy organizations, including AARP, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, the Coalition for a Livable Future and OPAL Environmental Justice.

The poll surveyed 323 likely Portland voters. It is considered accurate to within +/-5.46% at a 95% level of confidence.

The questions were as follows:

Q1. As you may have heard, the Portland City Council is considering a new income tax on residents, and a new fee on businesses, to provide additional revenue for the city’s transportation department. It’s often referred to in the media as the “street fee.” To give you a couple of examples of how it might affect you, according to the sponsors Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick, an

individual’s tax could vary from a low of nothing to a high of $900 dollars, depending on the individual or household annual income. A two-income household earning $40 to $60 thousand dollars a year would be taxed $60 dollars. The same household with an income of $75 to $100 thousand dollars would pay $120 dollars per year.

Based on what you know at this point in time, would you say you support or oppose this new personal income and business tax? Strongly or somewhat?

Q2. The Portland City Council could vote as early as December 3rd of next week on whether or not to implement the new tax. Do you support allowing the council to decide this on their own, or do you support referring the decision on this tax to the voters? Is that strongly or somewhat?

Q3. Commissioners Dan Saltzman and Nick Fish are on record saying that any tax approved by the City Council should be referred to the ballot, with voters having the final say. Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick, on the other hand, oppose referring the question to the voters and want the City Council to decide the issue alone.

If Hales and Novick approve the new tax then block it from going to a vote of the people, would that make you more or less likely to support their re-election in 2016, or would this issue make no difference? Much or somewhat?

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