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Gas Tax Could Appear On Portland's May Ballot

Portlanders could see a 10 cents per gallon gas tax on the May ballot. The proposal announced Monday is the city’s latest attempt to fix a backlog of road repair.  

Transportation commissioner Steve Novick points to newspaper editorials, a letter from the Portland Business Alliance, and a recent report from the City Club of Portland as evidence that a gas tax is gaining support.

Steve Novick is Portland's transportation commissioner.

Steve Novick is Portland’s transportation commissioner.

Amelia Templeton/OPB

A poll Novick commissioned shows more support for a gas tax than for taxes based on property value or vehicle mileage.

City councilors shelved plans for a street fee back in January.  

Novick’s 10 cents per gallon gas tax would generate $58 million over four years — far less than what was expected under the street fee.  

The gas tax would mainly go to pave roads and improve safety by building school crossings, crosswalks, sidewalks and adding streetlights. 

Novick could have the support he needs from the City Council. Commissioner Nick Fish said he’d support putting a gas tax to voters.

“I applaud Commissioner Novick for working with the community to identify new revenues for our streets,” Fish said in a written statement. “While the details are still being worked out, I would support an increase in the gas tax for street repair and traffic safety, provided the issue is referred to the voters.”

Mayor Charlie Hales is out of town and unavailable, but he’s previously expressed support for a gas tax.

An email from Hales’ spokesperson Sara Hottman strikes a supportive tone, saying “since the City Club report recommended a local gas tax, Mayor Hales has said, ‘great — put it on the ballot.’”

But Hottman points out that the revenue projections appear to fall short of what’s needed to eliminate the road maintenance backlog.

“Mayor Hales emphasizes that it’s not enough to take care of all the safety and maintenance needs in Portland; the search for more revenue options must continue,” Hottman said.

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