Metro postpones homeless services measure vote
The Metro Council will postpone voting to refer a homeless services funding measure until next week, following last-minute confusion over how much money its current proposal would raise.
The council had been scheduled to refer the measure to the May 19 primary election ballot during its weekly meeting on Thursday, Feb. 20. But on Wednesday afternoon, the elected regional government pulled the item from the agenda.
During a Tuesday work session, the council was told it would raise $175 million per year. But after the session, the council learned it would raise only $135 million per year.
As a result, the council will consider discussing the proposal with supporters and will take it up again next Tuesday or Thursday, according to Metro spokesman Nick Christensen.
The HereTogether advocacy organization has requested a measure to raise up to $300 million per year for a variety of homeless services, including rent subsidies and social services, such as addiction and mental health treatment to help keep the chronically homeless housed.
Metro has been considering a 1% tax on the personal incomes of individuals earning above $125,000 per year, and couples earning more than $250,000 per year. The council was told that would raise $175 million per year at the Tuesday's work session, which would be well short of HereTogether's $300 million goal.
That figure was dropped even further to $135 million per year after the session.
Metro President Lynn Peterson blamed miscommunication by staff working on the measure for the problem. She promised to keep working with the HereTogether coalition on the measure.
"The Metro Council is clear they are dedicated to addressing our region's homelessness crisis. A miscommunication led to an inaccurate estimate of what a regional income tax on high earners would raise," Peterson said Tuesday night. "The goal remains the same: To provide supportive housing services for every person experiencing chronic homelessness in our region, and help as many people as possible who are on the brink of homelessness around greater Portland."
The Portland Business Alliance opposes the income tax but has proposed a payroll tax that could raise $250 million or more per year for homeless services.
Metro councilors have, so far, dismissed that idea.
You can read a previous Portland Tribune story on the issue here.
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