Voters reject Metro's regional transportation plan
Metro's $5.2 billion regional transportation ballot measure was defeated by a margin of 57% to 43% in late results. Measure 26-218 was defeated in all three counties in Metro's jurisdiction.
The defeat upends years of transportation planning and threatens the future of the Southwest Corridor MAX line that the measure would have helped finance.
Measure 26-218 was intended to help fund projects in 17 transportation corridors in the region, including a new Southwest Corridor MAX line between Portland and Bridgeport Village just outside of Tualatin. It would impose a payroll tax of up to 0.75% on employers with more than workers. Metro President Lynn Peterson favors limiting the rate to 0.60% if the measure passes.
Metro President Lynn peterson said the elected regional government was disappointed by the apparent loss but would continue working for transportation improves.
"Though disappointed, we are still committed to the vision and to the community who helped identify and build the vision. The fact is, our communities -- particularly communities of color and low-income families struggling the most right now — still need safer streets, better transit and improved access to opportunity. That's what we heard through the years of engagement that informed Get Moving 2020," said Peterson.
"Defeat of the wage tax is a rejection of failed Metro leadership and mission creep and a victory for protecting family paychecks, job, and employers of all kind. In the future, Oregon employers should never be excluded or disregarded when local or state governments seek to raise new taxes. This victory demonstrates that the diverse voices of employers are always stronger when we are united and speak with a single, powerful voice," said Jeff Reading, a spokesman for the opponents.
"While we are disappointed by the outcome of the election, members of our diverse and dedicated coalition are not deterred," said supporter Vivian Satterfield, Strategic Partnerships Director at Verde and campaign co-chair. "The community partners that shaped this package will continue to work together alongside partners in Metro and the region to ensure that the long overdue and critical investments in our region's infrastructure are completed and long-awaited community programs are actualized."
Supporters formed two political action committees to support the measure. The Get Moving PAC reported raising $1.135 million by election day. Large contributions included over $200,000 from Stacy and Witbeck, a California-based construction company that has worked on previous MAX projects in the region, $50,000 from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Oregon, $65,000 from the Texas-based AECOM Technology Group and $10,000 each from a variety of construction companies and labor unions. The Infrastructure Jobs are Good Jobs PAC reported raising $188,000 by election day. Large contributions included $60,000 from the International Union of Operating Engineers and $25,000 from the United Food and Commercial Works International Union.
Opponents formed the Stop the Metro Wage TAX PAC. It reported raising $2 million by election day. Most of the contributions came from businesses, including $290,000 from Nike,$200,000 from The Standard, and $150,000 from Intel.
The Metro measure was intended to raise and invest a total of $8 billion in 17 transportation corridors in the region. If approved by voters, it would generate $4.2 billion from within the region for transportation projects and another $1 billion for transportation-related programs. The regional funds were expected to leverage an additional $2.8 billion in federal transportation funds.
Some businesses, including the members of Business for a Better Portland, supported the measure, saying it was a step toward racial equity and other benefits. The referral also is supported by the Getting There Together Coalition. It includes AARP Oregon, APANO, Coalition of Communities of Color, East Portland Action Plan, Hacienda CDC, 1000 Friends of Oregon, OPAL Environmental Justice, the Oregon Environmental Council, Oregon Walks, Portland African American Leaders Forum, Safe Routes Partnership, Street Trust, The Street Trust, Urban League of Portland, Verde and the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center.
Business organizations opposing the referral included the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce, the Building Owners & Managers Association of Oregon, the Clackamas County Business Alliance, the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center, the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce, the Portland Business Alliance, the Smart Growth Coalition, the Technology Association of Oregon, the Westside Economic Alliance, the Working Waterfront Coalition, the East Metro Economic Alliance, Oregon Business & Industry, the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors and the Tualatin Chamber of Commerce.
"We urge you to consider whether current changes of the magnitude we are experiencing in our economy require all of us to pause on a new business tax proposal," the Employers Coalition said in a letter to the council before the vote.
Planning for the new MAX line began many years ago. It was always considered to be part of comprehensive transportation improvements between downtown Portland and the rapidly growing portion of Washington County that includes Tigard and Tualatin. Cities and counties along the route also realized that more affordable housing would be needed to minimize displacement caused by increasing property values, also known as gentrification.
Because Metro is a regional government, its elected council realized it needed to give voters outside the corridor a reason to vote for it. That provided an opportunity to create a regional transportation improvement plan with input from stakeholders in all three counties. The council endorsed its list around 150 projects in 16 transportation corridors in the counties.
According to the plan, the largest investment would be $975 million to help finance the new MAX line in the Southwest Corridor. The federal government is expected to pay half the cost of the project, currently estimated at $2.8 billion.
Other investments for projects and planning in the draft plan include: 82nd Avenue, $540 million; McLoughlin Boulevard, $230 million; Burnside Street, $370 million; Central City, $240 million; Southwest 185th Avenue, $190 million; Highway 212/Sunrise Corridor, $240 million; Clackamas-to-Columbia/181st Corridor, $150 million; Southeast Powell Boulevard, $110 million; 162nd Avenue, $100 million; 122nd Avenue, $100 million; Albina Vision project in the Rose Quarter area, $65 million; Highway 43, $70 million; Highway 217, $18 million; Highway 99W, $5 million; and Highway 26, $1 million.
Another $250 million would be raised each year for the next 20 years for transportation-related programs. They range from Safe Routes to Schools to annual TriMet youth programs for high school students in the region.
If the measure is approved by voters at the Nov. 3 general election, Metro is likely to issue revenue bonds before the fee and tax become effective to begin work on some of the projects as soon as possible.
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