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The elected regional government will discuss lowering the payroll tax in its $5.2 billion ballot measure.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The sign out the Metro regional headquarters.A rare split in business opposition to Metro's region transportation ballot measure has sparked a proposed deal to help it pass.

Most business alliances in the region now oppose the $5.2 billion measure on the Nov. 3 ballot because it would be funded by a 0.75% payroll tax. The Portland Business Alliance and most other chambers of commerce say employers cannot afford new taxes at this time because of the economic hardship caused by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the Tigard Chamber of Commerce supports the measure and wrote to Metro President Lynn Peterson and Metro Councilor Craig Dirksen to request the payroll tax rate be lowered to 0.6% and to be phased in over time. The PBA had previously rejected such an offer, made by Peterson in hopes that the business alliance would stay neutral on the measure.

Peterson and Dirksen said they support the Tigard Council request and will make the council aware of that during its Thursday, Sept. 3, meeting,

"While work cannot begin to set those rates, or a ramp-up proposal, prior to the November election, we agree and endorse this important action be taken," Peterson and Dirksen said in a Sept. 1 letter to Tigard Chamber CEO Debi Mollahan.

The city of Tigard and Tigard residents stand to benefit from the largest project to be funded by the measure, the new Southwest Corridor MAX line between Portland and Bridgeport Village outside of Tualatin. Dirksen was the mayor of Tigard before being elected to the Metro Council.

Opponents of the measure said the proposed deal was an admission that Metro made a mistake by referring it to the ballot during a recession.

"Just another admission by Metro that this is the wrong tax at the wrong time — they can delay it, they can reduce it, they can exempt themselves, but they can't change the fact that this is the wrong tax at the wrong time for struggling businesses, nonprofits, and family paychecks," said Jeff Reading, a spokesman for the Stop the Metro Wage Tax campaign.

Readers can find a previous Portland Tribune story on the issue here.


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