Voters reject Portland region transportation measure

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
Portland, Ore. Nov. 4, 2020 4:27 a.m. Updated: Nov. 4, 2020 4:56 a.m.

Unofficial returns Tuesday night showed voters rejecting the multibillion-dollar transportation measure for the Portland metro area.

Related: More election coverage and results from OPB


If passed, Measure 26-218 would have funded transportation-focused programs and projects in the Portland region spanning the next 15 to 20 years. The measure was referred to the ballot by Metro — the regional government for Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties.

The measure would have placed a tax of up to 0.75% on the payrolls of employers starting in 2022, excluding local governments and businesses with 25 or fewer employees. That money would go toward transportation improvements in 17 designated corridors throughout the metro area. There were about 150 projects proposed in those corridors.

The plan included nearly $4 billion toward areas such as the Tualatin Valley Highway, McLoughlin Boulevard and the Southwest Corridor Light Rail, a proposed expansion of the MAX light rail train system into Southwest Portland, Tigard and Tualatin. An additional $1 billion was slated to go to regional programs such as creating safer routes to schools, free youth transit passes and replacing diesel buses with low-carbon or electric ones. Metro also expected to leverage more than $2 billion in federal or state funding, making the plan worth roughly $7 billion in total.

Metro Council President Lynn Peterson Tuesday night acknowledged in a statement that the transportation measure was on a crowded ballot and thanked voters for considering it.

“Though disappointed, we are still committed to the vision and to the community who helped identify and build the vision,” Peterson said in a statement. “The fact is, our communities — particularly communities of color and low-income families struggling the most right now — still need safer streets, better transit and improved access to opportunity. That’s what we heard through the years of engagement that informed Get Moving 2020.”


Peterson said the years of work that went into the measure remain invaluable, and she said “we are not giving up on it.”

“We need to move forward as a region. We’re going to keep growing,” Peterson said. “Safe, reliable transportation remains a regional challenge that we must address together — doing nothing is not an option.”

The official campaign against the measure, a group called Stop the Metro Wage Tax, said it is glad voters appear to have rejected the measure.

“Defeat of the wage tax is a rejection of failed Metro leadership and mission creep, and a victory for protecting family paychecks, jobs and employers of all kind,” Stop The Metro Wage Tax campaign spokesperson Jeff Reading said in a statement.

“In the future, Oregon employers should never be excluded or disregarded when local or state governments seek to raise new taxes," Reading said in the statement. "This victory demonstrates that the diverse voices of employers are always stronger when we are united and speak with a single, powerful voice.”

Stop the Metro Wage Tax had received more than $1 million in contributions from companies like Nike, Daimler Trucks, Intel and others.

The Getting There Together Coalition, or GTT was one of the measure’s supporters. GTT is a group of nonprofits, including agencies serving people of color like the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon and the Coalition of Communities of Color.

“We’re disappointed that some businesses in the region chose not to support the opportunity to build a more accessible, more affordable, more equitable transportation system for everyone in the region, and instead ran a misleading campaign funded by corporate hypocrisy,” Kari Schlosshauer, Pacific Northwest senior policy manager for Safe Routes Partnership and co-founder of GTT said in a statement. “While this measure ultimately did not pass, our communities still need these transportation investments, and our coalition will continue to work for a transportation system that works for all.”

This is a link to OPB's election coverage, ballot guide and results.

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