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Opinion issued by the Portland City Attorney says many more businesses must pay the 1 percent tax surcharge than supporters claimed during the ballot measure campaign

PMG FILE PHOTO - Supporters of the Portland Clean Energy Fund measure rallied in front of the Walmart on Southeast 82nd Avenue during the campaign.A prediction made by opponents of the Portland Clean Energy Fund during the November 2020 general election has come true. It could increase the cost of government spending more than expected, including affordable housing projects.

As noted in a study they released last July, how many businesses are subject to the 1 percent surcharge on sales for clean energy projects depends on how the city defines "retail sales." The Portland Tribune reported on the study about Measure 26-201 in October.

The City Attorney's Office has now issued an opinion defining the term broadly, meaning that many more businesses are subject to the tax than supporters said during the campaign. As first reported by Willamette Week, that includes construction companies that build affordable housing projects, which will increase the cost of such projects.

Portland officials are reportedly meeting to decide whether to limit the definition of retail when the city adopts the rules to implement the tax, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters.

During the campaign, supporters repeatedly said the tax would only apply to major retailers doing business in Portland. They predicted it would raise about $47 million a year.

Opponents released an ECONorthwest study that said many more businesses could be affected, however. The report predicted it could raise up to $79 million a year.

Supporter Jenny Lee, advocacy director of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, said the nine-member grant review committee created by the measure should suggest any changes they deem necessary. Opponents have not yet proposed specific changes.

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


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