Commissioner Steve Novick has finally found a street fee that most Portlanders support — one that only the rich pay.
Novick and Mayor Charlie Hales have struggled for months to find a new source of revenue for funding street maintenance and safety improvement projects. They started by proposing a transportation user fee that assessed a flat monthly fee on households and a fee based on vehicle trips on nonresidential properties. Outraged reactions from residents, business owners and nonprofit organizations forced them to pull their proposal back for more work, however.
Now Novick has released a new poll that shows 60 percent of Portlanders supporting taxing those who earn more than $125,000 to pay for maintenance and safety projects. Only 37 percent oppose the idea of a 1 percent tax on incomes above $125,000, a 2 percent tax on incomes about $250,000 and a 3 percent tax on incomes above $500,000.
That’s the highest level of support of any new revenue source measured by the poll. Portlanders are evenly split on a smaller income tax that begins at $100,000 and an increase in the city’s income tax on business profits. And they oppose a combined business profits tax and sales tax.
Significantly, the majority of those who responded to the poll would not pay anything under the funding proposal they support. Seventy-six percent reported earning less than $100,000 a year. Only 12 percent said they earn more than $100,000 a year and 13 percent refused to disclose their income.
Hales and Novick are running into a hard political reality: a lot of people are not willing to pay more money for the things they want from government. Polls have consistently shown that most Portlanders believe street maintenance and safety projects are a top priority.
Hales and Novick want the City Council to approve a street fee in November that raises approximately $53 million a year, evenly divided between residential and non-residential properties. The poll of 300 voters was conducted June 19 through 22 by DHM Research. It cost $16,500 and was paid for by Novick’s office. He is in charge of the Portland Bureau of Transportation.