Large retailers doing business in Portland will have to pay a 1 percent tax on the revenue they generate in the city.
Portland voters on Tuesday passed a gross receipts tax measure that will pay into a clean energy fund, which proponents say will help the city chip away at its clean energy goals.
"We are absolutely thrilled with this resounding victory that really speaks to a new era of an inclusive politics in Portland," said Jenny Lee, advocacy director with the Coalition of Communities of Color.
Measure 26-201 — formally known on the ballot as the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Initiative — became a battle this election season over trickle-down economics. Opponents, mostly business groups, argued the gross receipts tax on retailers doing business in Portland would hit consumers at the cash register.
Proponents, mostly local community organizations, said the benefits far outweigh any potential drawback, especially for communities of color — which they argue are disproportionately affected by climate change. The measure’s steering committee includes Verde, the Coalition of Communities of Color, the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon and the Portland branch of the NAACP, among others.
Opponents said they were disappointed with the election results, but willing to look for compromises in the future.
“While we remain seriously concerned with the impact this gross receipts tax will have on Portlanders who can least afford it, we stand in agreement with the proponents of this measure that much more must be done to lessen the impacts of climate change to those most affected,” said Andrew Hoan, president and CEO of the Portland Business Alliance.
At an election night party in Northeast Portland, the last of the days' canvassers rode up in Lime scooters to a crowd of cheering supporters.
Front and center inside the small – yet packed – event space were leaders of community groups representing Portland's communities of color.
"From now on we know who is setting the environmental agenda in our city, in our state, in our country," said Tony DeFalco, Verde's deputy director.
"It's people of color," DeFalco said to the cheering crowd. "We have borne the brunt of this disaster for a long, long time, and now we have the seeds in front of us of how we bear the fruit of the just transition."
The tax is aimed at retailers that make more than $1 billion in gross revenues nationally and $500,000 in Portland. The tax will apply only to the gross revenue generated in Portland city limits beginning Jan. 1, 2019. Proponents say the measure will generate an estimated $30 million a year (though opponents have contested that).
Money from the tax is to be used to pay for clean energy projects and job training throughout the city.
The tax will not apply to groceries, medicine or health care services.