Metro's $250 Million Homeless Services Measure Receives Legal Challenge

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
Portland, Ore. March 7, 2020 10:26 p.m.

An Oregon business coalition filed a legal challenge Friday against a proposed ballot measure from Metro — the regional government for Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties.

The proposed measure would ask voters in May to approve a personal and business tax slated to raise about $250 million for homeless services.


In its challenge, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, the coalition states Metro’s proposed ballot measure is too vague and parts of it are undefined and inaccurate.

Related: Metro Refers $250 Million Homeless Service Measure To May Ballot

The coalition, called the Alliance for an Affordable Metro, represents “Oregon’s leading job creators across the state who recognize the value the metro area plays statewide,” according to the group.

“Unfortunately, the downtown Portland business interests at the negotiating table didn’t consider the cumulative impact of the exponentially growing number of state and local taxes that are borne by everyday Oregonians and business owners,” Joe Gilliam, president of the NW Grocery Association and one of the petitioners in the legal challenge, said in a statement. “This measure will increase the costs of basic needs including groceries, housing and utility bills.”


Another petitioner, Shaun Jillions, who leads a manufacturing trade association, echoed Gilliam in a written statement: “We cannot consider these new personal and business taxes in a vacuum. Any new tax must be considered based on the cumulative effect of taxation on the same dollar.”

If passed, the region’s wealthiest residents — individuals earning more than $125,000 annually and couples earning more than $200,000 — would have a 1% marginal income tax.

There would also be an additional 1% business tax on the profits of business with gross receipts of more than $5 million.

HereTogether Oregon, a coalition of advocates, elected officials, business leaders and service providers, first brought the measure to the Metro Council in January, asking it to respond to the homeless crisis.

“This is neither the work of a meaningful coalition nor a metro-based organization,” HereTogether campaign manager Angela Martin said in a statement of the Alliance for an Affordable Metro’s challenge.

She continued: “All they are announcing today is that they proudly have the ability to hire a lawyer and don’t prioritize solving homelessness in Portland the way thousands of local businesses of all sizes do … We are in no way concerned with their challenge and hope their lawyers get paid well for their trouble.”

HereTogether said the Alliance for an Affordable Metro incorrectly characterizes the measure as a "tax on businesses," rather than a tax on large business profits.

"We are taxing the last dollar by 1%, not adding a cumulative tax on a business enterprise," the group said in its statement.

HereTogether said in its statement that more than 150 diverse groups that have given their support to the ballot measure.