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Big Business in Portland Doesn't Want to Pay for Metro Transportation Funding Measure

A heated dispute over a $5 billion Metro transportation funding ballot measure has erupted between climate activists and a group representing Portland's big business interests.
September 28, 2020, 8am PDT | Lee Flannery | @leecflannery
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MAX line in front of Pioneer Courthouse

Portland area voters will decide on a Metro transportation funding measure that could bring a new MAX line running from Downtown to underserviced southwest Portland, allow TriMet to gradually transition from diesel to electric busses, and enable several other "safety, transit, and infrastructure improvements across the Metro region," reports Blair Stenvick. 

A 0.6% payroll tax on most employers with over 25 employees on payroll is proposed to fund the work. Due to the economic landscape resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, several big businesses in the Portland metro area have banded together to oppose the measure. 

According to Stenvick, opposition group Stop the Metro Wage Taxt recent advertisement described the measure as "a permanent new wage tax on struggling employers and nonprofits." Multinational corporations like Nike and Intel are among the opponents of the tax.

"But for a coalition of environmental organizations supporting the ballot measure, the transportation improvements it would fund can’t wait for a more economically convenient time. These groups are framing the measure as Oregon voters’ key chance to address climate change—an issue on which the clock is ticking—during the November election," says Stenvick, noting the transportation sector as the largest emitter of carbon in Oregon.

The fate of the measure is in the hands of the voters. BlueGreen Alliance Oregon State Policy Coordinator Ranfis Villatoro wants voters to know that if the measure passes, the payroll tax would not be collected until 2022 and that 91% of employers in the metro area don't have the 25 employee payroll required for the tax.

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Published on Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in The Portland Mercury
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