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Portland Considers Raising Tax On Landline Phones

The City of Portland held a hearing Thursday on a plan to increase taxes on landline telephones.

Mayor Sam Adams says the increase is needed to pay for improvements to the police and the city’s mental health services — as required by a settlement with the US Department of Justice.

The city currently charges different phone companies different tax rates. Adams says the new ordinance would establish a uniform 5 percent tax and level the corporate playing field.

Adams said, “Some have argued that I should have also imposed a cell phone tax. That would be a new tax and I have not chosen to do that because I think the political lift involved with that requires more time and more effort. But this inequity among landlines, it needs to be closed.”

The tax is expected to generate between about $4 million and $5 million a year.

A regular landline customer who pays 38 cents a month in taxes now might see that increase to about 70 cents a month.

A number of telephone executives, like Adam Grzybicki of AT&T Oregon opposed the ordinance saying police reforms have nothing to do with the telephone industry and that any tax increase should be put to a vote of the people.

But other executives, like Mike Farah of Comcast, commended the effort to level tax policy.

The hearing was held open until next week.

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