State funding for roads? ‘You better believe it’

Portland street fee now dependent on state transportation package

(L-R) Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, and Peter Courtney, the president of the Oregon Senate, in Salem, Jan. 16, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
(L-R) Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, and Peter Courtney, the president of the Oregon Senate, in Salem, Jan. 16, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Though they say all the right things, state lawmakers are also honest about how realistic getting something passed to bring more money to fix the roads.

Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, in Salem, Jan. 16, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, in Salem, Jan. 16, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

“Right now, it would be challenging to guess at that,” said Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario.

For months, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick have been pushing one street fee or tax idea or another through often-raucous public meetings and council sessions.

But Thursday night, they pulled the plug — at least for now — and said they will wait for the Oregon Legislature. They are confident state lawmakers will pass something that would bring in more money for the entire state.

Peter Courtney, the president of the Oregon Senate, in his office in Salem, Jan. 16, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Peter Courtney, the president of the Oregon Senate, in his office in Salem, Jan. 16, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

“Nobody talked to me,” Senate President Peter Courtney said Friday. “They talked to the speaker and the mayor. Nobody talked to Peter or the Senate, so I don’t know what’s going on up there.”

For every cent the state gas tax is increased, an extra $17.5 million is generated for the state, producing an estimated $1.27 million for Portland.

“I’m not interested in just looking at one part of my state,” Courtney said. “It’s all my state that needs help in this area.”

Lawmakers who spoke with KOIN 6 News said a new gas tax or vehicle registration fee are the most likely options.

But they are options previously discussed and options that don’t always go somewhere.

Bentz admitted, “It’s always tough to get through.”

But Courtney was more upbeat when asked if it could get done.

“You know what, you better believe it. Oregonians can get things done. But we have to decide we really want it bad.  You have to want this bad, have to want it. You can’t just talk this stuff.”

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