Portland Street Fee plan: bracketed approach

Public hearing set for Nov. 20

Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick announces a plan for a street fee, Nov. 10, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick announces a plan for a street fee, Nov. 10, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — After months of heated debate, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales laid out a plan to repair the city’s deteriorating roadways.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, center, and Commissioner Steve Novick at a news conference regarding a proposed street fee, Nov. 10, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, center, and Commissioner Steve Novick at a news conference regarding a proposed street fee, Nov. 10, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

Hales and city commissioner Steve Novick have spearheaded the fee’s adoption, introducing it nearly one year ago. At an event Monday to unveil the plan, the mayor said the public input made a difference and helped shape better proposals.

It’s projected this plan will raise $46 million to take care of the roads in the city, officials said.

The plan, as seen in display materials, said businesses paying between $3 and $144 per month. Non-profits get a 50% discount. The specific fee will be based on the number of employees, square footage of the business and revenue.

Individuals will pay rates based on their ability to pay.

For instance, the plan showed a couple making $40,000 to $60,000 will pay $5 per month, and those making between $60,000 and $75,000 will pay $7.50 per month.

Couples making less than $35,000 and individuals making less than $25,000 would pay nothing.

The fees would be collected differently. Businesses would pay it along with their business tax. Individuals would pay it at the same time as the Arts Tax.

Hales said these proposals are fair, reasonable and bearable.

“Politics works,” the mayor said. “People had a chance to have their say.”

The plan is to spend 44% of the money on safety projects for the roads and the other 56% on maintenance, he said.

A public hearing will be held Nov. 20 before a Dec. 3 vote, but there is still no plan for a public vote.

Opponents are already voicing their displeasure.

This chart provided by the city shows the proposed dollar figures for the Portland Street Fee, announced by Mayor Charlie Hales on Nov. 10, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
This chart provided by the city shows the proposed dollar figures for the Portland Street Fee, announced by Mayor Charlie Hales on Nov. 10, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

Opponents of the plan

The mayor hopes to get all five commissioners to vote for the plan, but only three votes are needed to pass. Hales and Novick are two votes, but the others – Nick Fish, Dan Saltzman and Amanda Fritz — haven’t made any committments.

Fish said he hasn’t read the fine print on this plan but still believes this plan should be referred to voters.

The Portland Business Alliance is not a fan of the plan. In a blog post, the Alliance said they opposed the plan because:

— it calls for the first-ever city income tax
— half of Portlanders would be exempt from paying anything (under the low income portion of the plan)
— that there is no sunset date (meaning the fees could continue indefinitely)
and that most of the revenue would go toward paving maintenance.

Additionally, the Oregon Fuels Association is against this plan. They disagree with the city on the charter and thinks the plan should go to voters.

And Robert McCullough at Southeast Uplift said neighborhoods in the area don’t like this plan because, he said, the math isn’t fair — it’s too hard on top earners and too easy on businesses.

Follow Chris Woodard on Twitter: @chriswKOIN

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