Fight erupts over Metro homeless services measure
A newly-formed organization claiming to represent statewide businesses has filed a legal challenge to the $250 million homeless service measure referred by Metro to the May 19 primary election ballot.
The Alliance for an Affordable Metro is challenging the wording of the ballot title in Multnomah County Circuit Court, as allowed by state election law.
The organization actually opposes the personal and business income taxes that would be created by the measure, according to a press release it issued on Friday, March 6.
"We cannot consider these new personal and business taxes in a vacuum. Any new tax must be considered based on the cumulative effect of taxation on the same dollar," said co-petitioner Shaun Jillions, executive director of Oregon Manufacturers and Commerce.
Measure supporters criticized the opposition.
"All they are announcing today is that they proudly have the ability to hire a lawyer and don't prioritize solving homelessness in Portland the way thousands of local businesses of all sizes do," said campaign manager Angela Martin. "We are in no way concerned with their challenge and hope their lawyers get paid well for their trouble."
The other co-petition is Joe Gilliam, president of the Northwest Grocery Association. In the release, Gilliam said that the Portland Business Alliance, which participated in negotiations over the measure, does not speak for all Portland or Oregon businesses.
"Unfortunately, the downtown Portland business interests at the negotiating table didn't consider the cumulative impact of the exponentially growing number of state and local taxes that are borne by everyday Oregonians and business owners," said Gilliam.
Measure supporters said many other Portland businesses were involved, including those represented by Business for a Better Portland.
"This challenge is cynically attempting to do one thing: derail the effort to provide solutions to our region's homelessness crisis, despite the fact that it is voters number one priority and there is broad coalition supporting the measure," said Martin.
No other businesses were identified as participating in the organization in the release.
If approved by Metro voters, the measure would impose a 1% tax on the incomes of wealthier people and larger businesses within the boundaries of the elected regional government. The funds are intended to reduce homelessness by doing such things as helping households at risk of eviction pay their rent and provide services to the chronically homeless, such as mental health and addiction treatment.
Jillions and Gilliam said the taxes would add to an increasing tax burden that is making it difficult to do business in the greater Portland area. Existing taxes cited in the release include:
• State of Oregon corporate income tax
• State of Oregon personal income tax
• State of Oregon commercial activities tax
• City of Portland Business License Tax
• Multnomah County Business Income Tax
• The City of Portland 1% Gross Receipts Tax (Clean Energy Surcharge)
• The nearly $1 billion in affordable housing bonds the Metro area voters have approved since 2016
The release also cited the following tax measures expected to be on the May and November 3 general election ballots in the region:
• $16 million City of Portland gas tax renewal
• 3.9% personal income tax increase to fund universal preschool
• Multnomah County business income tax increase
• $3 billion Metro transportation tax package
• $1.4 billion Portland Public Schools bond
• $405 million Multnomah County library bond
This measure will increase the costs of basic needs including groceries, housing and utility bills," said Gilliam.
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