Will Democrats push tax measure to the ballot?

Democrats have to decide whether to pass a budget

Incoming ballots are sorted and moved downstairs at the Multnomah County elections office. (Jonathan House/ The Portland Tribune)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Democrats in the 2017 Oregon Legislature don’t need two-thirds votes in the House and Senate to raise taxes. They can refer a tax measure to the ballot with a simple majority and hope it passes.

Because Democrats lack a two-thirds majority in both chambers, political observers repeatedly have said they need at least a few Republican votes to raise taxes to help close the projected $1.6 million budget shortfall this session. That’s true, unless the Democrats decide to refer their tax plan to the voters instead. That only requires the votes they already have.

The trouble is, voters won’t decide whether to pass the measure until after the next budget takes effect July 1. So Democrats have to decide whether to pass a budget with deep cuts and count on voters coming to the rescue with new revenue, or keep trying to get the few Republican votes they need to increase taxes during what’s left of the session.

Largest lobbyist group a surprise

The entity with the most lobbyists registered at City Hall is not a business or labor organization. It is the civic-minded League of Women Voters of Portland, which has 10 people currently registered as lobbyists with the Portland Auditor’s Office.

People and entities must register if they spend over $1,000 or more than eight hours lobbying the city during a quarter.

Other entities with many registered lobbyists include: Lyft and the Port of Portland, with eight apiece; McCall Oil and Chemical with seven; Uber with six; and Multifamily NW, the Portland Business Alliance, Portland State University and Open Signal with five.

Political consultants at City Hall

The most recent filing reports show that six political consultants currently are registered with the Portland Auditor’s Office because they are providing services to three City Council members who previously employed them.

The filings are required because of changes to the previous lobbyist registration program successfully advocated by Commissioner Nick Fish.

Three of the consultants previously worked for Mayor Ted Wheeler. They are Weiden + Kennedy, Lake Research, and Storefront Political Media.

Gwen Schurman previously worked for Commissioner Dan Saltzman, while Winning Mark advised on the Children’s Levy that Saltzman sponsored. And Hilltop Public Solutions is advising Fish on the short-term rental lodging tax measure on the May 17 special election ballot he sponsored.

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