Novick floats idea of Portland sales tax

FILE - Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick. July 9, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
FILE - Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick. July 9, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Commissioner Steve Novick, one of the main proponents of a street fee for Portland, floated the idea of a sales tax in the area that would raise more money than the revenue from the street fee.

“We wrote off the sales tax because it lacks public political support, but I was looking at some numbers the other day, and it appears that many people would pay less under a 0.5% sales tax than under our residential street fee proposal, even though a 0.5% sales tax would raise as much money as the nonresidential and residential fees combined,” Novick said in a statement released late Tuesday morning.

“That’s because, even though a sales tax is regressive compared to the income tax, rich people still buy a lot more than lower and middle income people. It also occurs to me that we could possibly use the arts tax exemption process to develop a low-income sales tax rebate, which would alleviate regressivity.”

Novick acknowledged that polling on a sales tax is not encouraging, but said if it can be presented in an engaging way, it might be possible.

The structure of the arts tax — and the fact people can apply for exemptions to it — is an idea Novick said he would like to explore for the street fee.

“The City’s existing process with the arts tax allows people who are living below the poverty line send in some paperwork and get an exemption. Maybe we could use that process to provide rebates on water, sewer and transportation fees,” Novick wrote.

Novick and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales planned to have a City Council vote on Wednesday on the street fee, but postponed that until November 14.

A five-hour public hearing last week brought many vocal opponents to City Hall. The mayor announced the vote’s delay Tuesday morning.

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.

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