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Think Out Loud

Taxing Gas

Pete Springer/OPB

Earlier this year, the Oregon Legislature passed a transportation bill that included some of the biggest transportation tax increases the state has ever seen. Starting in January 2011 (or before that if the economy improves faster), Oregonians will pay an extra six cents for a gallon of gas. The new law also included a four-year moratorium on new gas taxes implemented by local governments within the state. Several cities are rushing to get their gas taxes passed in the intervening time before the moratorium takes effect September 28.

Paul Romain, lobbyist and executive director of the Oregon Petrolium Association is busily filing paperwork and mobilizing signature gatherers to refer each new local tax to a fall ballot. Romain makes the case that voters should be able to decide on these increases, but he also argues that referring the new laws essentially keeps them from being enacted prior to the September deadline. Not surprisingly, local officials from Madras to Cornelius disagree. City officials from these and other communities around the state say the laws are enacted when they pass, regardless of a subsequent referral. And they are willing to go to the mat over this since local gas taxes could be a significant revenue source to pay for road repairs and other services.

How much do you know about where your state and local gas taxes go? Do you live in a place that’s working to pass a new gas tax? How far will you drive for cheaper gas? Do you work at or own a gas station? How will the new state law affect you?


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