Metro is considering asking voters to approve a combination of taxes and fees to fund the transportation measure it is planning for the November 2020 general election.
The elected regional government wants to raise $4.1 billion over the next 20 years to fund a variety of transportation and transit projects and programs to reduce congestion, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and increase safety. Of the total, $3.1 billion would be spent on projects and $1 billion would be spent on programs. It would need to generate between $350 million and $450 million a year to accomplish that.
Metro released an analysis of 10 different revenue sources by the Portland-based ECONorthwest consulting firm on Wednesday, Dec. 11. It also released a new poll by FM3 Research that measured support for them individually and in combinations.
"I presume we will be looking at a combination of taxes, both from a position of looking at different revenue sources and sharing responsibiliites," Metro government affairs director Andy Shaw said at an afternoon press briefing on the analysis and poll.
The combination that gardnered the most support — 56% — included a vehicle registration fee of around 50 dollars a year, a personal income tax of 1 percent on household incomes over 100 thousand dollars per year, and a six-tenths of 1% business payroll tax.
Shaw said that level of support was encouraging, although many decisions about the final measure remain to be made. The measure is considered necessary to help fund the MAX line proposed for the Southwest Corridor between Portland, Tigard and Tualatin. A 35-member citizen advisory committee is expected to recommend additonal projects in 12 other transportation corridors in the region next Wednesday. Preliminary recommendations released by Metro in October included $975 million for the light rail project.
Although the poll found most voters are will to pay higher motor vehicle fees for the transportation projects and programs, they also favored taxes that someone else would be expected to pay. There was little support for higher property taxes, gas taxes, or a sales tax. There was more support for an income tax on higher income households, businesses, and a business payroll tax.
The Metro Council must decide which revenue sources and projects to include in the measure by late May or early June to provide enough time for it to qualify for the November ballot.
The poll of 962 Metro voters was conducted between Dec. 1 and 5.
Metro began considering the measure several years ago to help fund the proposed MAX. It is currently estimated to cost more than $2.5 billion, with the federal government expected to pay half. It's share would help increase the total investment generated by the measure to $6.2 billion over 20 years. The other projects are considered necessary to win support from voters in the rest of Metro's portion of Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties.
Among those who support the potential measure, most say it is needed to improve and repair infrastructure, improve and increase mass transit, and improve and decrease traffic. Most of those opposing it say there are already too many taxes and government cannot be trusted to manage the money.
The following revenue sources were analyzed by the Portland-based ECONorthwest consulting firm: a property tax; a vehicle registration fee; a vehicle privilege/purchase tax; a regional gas tax; a payroll tax; a corporate activities tax; a business income tax; a personal income tax (flat and progressive); a general sales tax; and a targeted sales tax on prepared food and beverage.
According to the analysis, all options require a public vote to enact.
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