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Supporters and opponents clash over whether $250 million-a-year tax would raise grocery and medicine prices

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Metro measure is intended to fund services for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.Accusations of lying and bullying are flying in the fight over Metro's $250 million-a-year homeless services measure.

Opponents are running TV and social media ads saying this is the wrong time for a tax on food and medicine. Supporters say the opponents are lying and have filed a cease and desist demand against them, prompting the opponents to accuse the supporters of bullying.

The controversy has erupted three weeks before the May 19 primary election. Ballot Measure 26-210 would impose a 1% tax on the marginal incomes of individuals making than $125,000 a year, couples making more than $200,000 a year, and businesses with Portland area revenues of more than $5 million a year. It would expire after 10 years unless renewed.

The opponents are the Alliance for an Affordable Metro, a new group founded by the leaders of two business organizations, said Joe Gilliam, who heads the Northwest Grocers, and Shaun Jillions, a business lobbyist who also serves as executive director of Oregon Manufacturers and Commerce. They argue businesses would pass the tax onto customers.

"Any reasonable person understands that a tax worth more than a billion dollars is likely going to result in price increases across the board. That's just basic economics," Gilliam said.

The supporters are HereTogether, a coalition of social service providers, unions, businesses and others. It convinced Metro to refer the measure to the ballot to raise funds for a wide range of services for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness in the tri-county region.

"Instead of saying the truth, which is that they represent people who would rather hoard profits than join everyone coming together to end our homeless crisis, they chose to try to propagate a straight-out lie. They have put online and on television the false claim that this measure raises taxes on groceries and medicine, and that it would harm our economic recovery by punishing average Oregonians. Nothing could be further from the truth," said HereTogether Campaign Director Angela Martin

The HereTogether campaign has formally asked television stations to refuse to run the ads, accusing them of violating FCC regulations against false advertising. It has also sent a legal cease and desist demand to the opposition campaign, reserving the right to seek full financial compensation for the losses to homeless services by suing them personally and every one of their major donors, including the main contributors to the various PACs backing the opposition campaign.

This prompted Gilliam to say, "It's disappointing that the special interest groups putting this measure forward have resorted to Trump-style name calling and bullying tactics."

The Alliance for an Affordable Metro reports raising around 51,000 in cash and in-kind contributions so far The HereTogether political action committee reports raising over $1 million

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