Portland, Oregon voters approved a 10 cents-per-gallon local gas tax on May 17, with unofficial results showing 51.8 percent of residents voted in favor of the measure. The local gas tax will expire after four years and will begin no earlier than September 2016. It is expected to generate $64 million over the four year period, with $35.8 million of that amount designated for paving projects and $28.2 million for safety projects, sidewalks and bike lanes.
By approving this measure, Portland residents agreed to have the highest gas tax rate in Oregon in order to fund transportation improvements. In addition to Portland, two counties and twenty-four cities currently have local fuel taxes to address transportation funding.
The results of the Tuesday ballot confirm poll results released by DHM Research and Oregon Public Broadcasting on May 10 that indicated 55 percent of voters supported the local gas tax increase.
A report by the City Club of Portland released Sept. 9, 2015 found that the city requires $205 million per year for at least the next ten years in order to catch up on its transportation infrastructure maintenance backlog. The report was released nine months after Mayor Charlie Hales (D) decided against including a street fee proposal on the 2015 city ballot, and two months after a measure to increase transportation funding failed in the Oregon state legislature.
Opponents of the measure feared that passing a local gas tax increase would threaten statewide action to increase transportation funding when the legislature reconvenes in 2017. (Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek on May 5 responded by stating that a local gas tax increase would have no effect on state negotiations.) Additionally, they also voiced concern that city revenue was not being properly utilized, and existing revenue should be spent before new revenue is generated. Furthermore, opponents pointed out that the revenue wouldn’t completely address the city’s transportation funding needs.
To-date in 2016, the Transportation Investment Advocacy Center (TIAC) has found nine county and local ballot measures already voted on throughout the country, with seven approved for over $173 million in transportation funding. TIAC staff is currently tracking future measures that will be considered by voters in November. To view past measures, visit the TIAC ‘Election Reports’ page.