Metro, the regional government for the Portland area, is expected to refer a measure to the May 2020 ballot that could raise $250 million annually for services to ease chronic homelessness.
The regional government has been expected to refer a homeless services measure to the May ballot for weeks. But what kind of taxing mechanism would go with the measure — and therefore how much it would generate — remained in flux. As recently as last Tuesday, a tax on the wealthiest households was floated; Metro councilors understood that it would have generated $175 million.
Then Metro staffers corrected that: The income tax Metro leaders preferred would only generate $135 million and stakeholders were sent back to the drawing board. The Portland Business Alliance, the region’s largest chamber of commerce, had also balked at the initial plan to tax high-earners and accused Metro of rushing a vote.
After three days of intense negotiation, Metro announced Friday that they will instead refer a measure that would generate $250 million a year by levying two new taxes. The first is a version of that 1% tax on high-income people — individuals earning more than $125,000 or couples making more than $250,000. And the second is a business income tax for regional businesses. Small businesses would be exempt.
Metro officials are remaining tight-lipped on the finer details of the two taxes. More details are expected Monday, ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
HereTogether Oregon, a coalition pushing for a regional response to the homelessness crisis, had asked for $250 million annually when they recommended the Council refer a measure to the May 2020 ballot. And it’s the number ECONorthwest, a consulting firm helping Metro analyze potential tax structures, said would “result in a marked decline in chronic homelessness and homelessness.”
“A $250 million annual investment in homeless services in the Portland Tri-County area would have a meaningful, positive impact on the lives of some of the region’s most vulnerable residents,” the consultants wrote. “The resources would be sufficient to provide supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness at a scale unmatched by other communities along the West Coast.”
The tax would need to be renewed after 10 years.