Portland City Council unanimously approves $8.2 billion budget

By Alex Zielinski (OPB)
May 16, 2024 1:24 a.m. Updated: May 23, 2024 8:16 p.m.

A final vote on the next year’s spending plan is set for June 12, but the budget moved forward with little debate on Wednesday.

Portland City Council tentatively approved a $8.2 billion budget Wednesday, setting the city on track for a fast-approaching government overhaul.

The budget is largely bolstered by the Portland Clean Energy Fund, the voter-approved tax on large retailers meant to fund renewable energy projects and address the effects of climate change in communities of color. That fund has brought in far more revenue than initially anticipated, a pool of money Mayor Ted Wheeler proposed using to fund PCEF-eligible programs in ways that shore up additional dollars to pay for general city programs.


The budget includes $732 million in discretionary general funds — which are dollars that come with few restrictions on how they can be used. Additionally, another $204 million from energy fund revenue is going toward city departments.

Budget season began this year with an anticipated $70 million shortfall, due to the downturn of several long relied-on revenue streams, one-time federal funds drying up, and several other economic pressures.

Energy fund revenue helped patch those gaps.

“[PCEF] was critical to this budget,” Wheeler said at a press event earlier this month. “Without the partnership of the leadership of the Portland Clean Energy Fund, we would’ve had to take more significant cuts.”


The Portland Clean Energy Fund was approved by voters in 2018. This is the first annual city budget that relies heavily on that tax. The decision sets the stage for future council conversations about how — and if — the city should be relying on specialized revenue streams like the energy fund to pay for core services.

This is the final budget that will be passed by a Portland council where commissioners still oversee city bureaus’ budgets. Come January, the city will be led by a newly-elected 12-person council that will only focus on making legislation instead of overseeing departments. This plan was set in motion in 2022 by a voter-approved measure to alter Portland’s governance model.

Commissioners focused on keeping their bureaus financially stable this budget cycle as they transition into the new structure. The spending plan fills budget holes previously anticipated in Portland Bureau of Transportation, Portland Parks & Recreation, and Portland Fire & Rescue.

During public hearings on the budget earlier this month, commissioners heard concerns about proposed cuts to several programs. Many of those programs have been made whole in the final budget, including a self-defense program for women and LGBTQ+ Portlanders, a gun violence prevention program, and the LGBTQ+ program in the Office of Equity and Human Rights.

The budget also keeps Portland Street Response, the program that sends social workers and medical teams to behavioral health crises instead of law enforcement, running at current staffing levels, while reducing the budget by nearly $3 million from last year’s funding.

Meetings on the city budget historically set up moments of heated debate among Portland commissioners. But Wednesday, commissioners only paused to split hairs on smaller staffing issues and questions about energy fund revenue that will largely concern future councils.

“A successful budget is one that will successfully align dollars with community values and needs, and I think we did that today,” said Commissioner Dan Ryan before casting his vote.

City Council will hold a final vote on the budget on June 12. The budget goes into effect July 1.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect an increase in the amount of Portland Clean Energy Fund revenue supporting the city budget.