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Highlighting support from BTA, Novick will put local gas tax on May 2016 ballot

Posted by on October 5th, 2015 at 11:55 am

Bike Share passage press conference-3.jpg

Novick hopes second time’s a charm.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

After dismissing it as too unpopular to even merit discussion prior to his last (failed) attempt to raise new revenue for transportation infrastructure, Commissioner Steve Novick now plans to put a 10-cent gas tax on the May 2016 ballot.

After a discussion about the proposal with community leaders today, Novick’s office sent out a press release exclaiming that, “Momentum builds for Portland gas tax to fund street repair and traffic safety.”

And in a marked departure from he and Mayor Charlie Hales’ previous strategy, Novick is not shying away from the “b” word (bikes).

Why has Novick shifted his thinking on the gas tax issue? Because he’s now heard support for the idea from many influential places including: a recent report by the City Club of Portland, a letter he received from the Portland Business Alliance, support from Mayor Charlie Hales and his primary opponent Ted Wheeler, the editorial boards of both the Portland Tribune and The Oregonian, and a recent survey showing that members of the NE Coalition of Neighborhoods picked a local gas tax as the most popular way to fund transportation.

And then there’s this:

Now, a new scientific survey of 400 Portland voters shows that voters support a ten cents per gallon, four year gas tax for street repair and traffic safety by a margin of 55% to 37%. The survey was conducted by Lake Research Partners September 24-28, 2015.

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Novick’s plan is to ask voters to support a four-year, 10-cent gas tax that would raise $58 million in new revenue.

In his press release today Novick included supportive statements from veteran east Portland transportation activist David Hampsten.

More notably, in a direct shift from he and Hales’ previous strategy to not mention cycling at all around talks of new revenue, Novick has included a comment from Bicycle Transportation Alliance leader Rob Sadowsky in his statement. “Not only do we need well-maintained roads, but also we will need to continue to invest in low-cost improvements that add capacity for transit, walking and biking,” Sadowsky said in support of Novick’s plan.

Novick has also released a detailed list of projects that would be funded over the next four years with the new gas tax revenue. Here’s the general breakdown:

projectlist

If you’re keeping track that adds up to $32.5 million for paving projects and about $25.5 million for biking, walking, and safety projects. But also keep in mind that the Bureau of Transportation often uses paving projects as an opportunity to re-stripe roads in a way that’s safer and improves access for bicycling and walking.

Read Novick’s full statement and see which specific projects will be funded via this PDF.

We’ll have much more coverage and analysis of this to come. Stay tuned.

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Adam
Subscriber

Only four years? It should be a permanent gas tax. Also, no thanks to more “low-cost improvements” for bikes. We need real separated infrastructure, not more sharrows.

Lester Burnham
Guest
Lester Burnham

It seems more fair than the ridiculous street fee, but I don’t see this passing either.

soren
Subscriber

If you’re keeping track that adds up to $32.5 million for paving projects and about $25.5 million for biking, walking, and safety projects.

So instead of the 50% originally proposed for safety we get a 43%?

Zero vision.

I vehemently oppose this funding split and am very disappointed that the BTA and Sadowsky are supporting this.

Dan
Guest
Dan

I support a 10-cent increase. Now if we can just do this 30 or 40 more times…

davemess
Guest
davemess

I’m sorry, but I think Novick is just as shady as Hales.
Please vote them both out.

They wouldn’t even talk about a gas tax increase last year and now they’re both touting it. (At least now they’re admitting that sending it to the voters is important)

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

It won’t work unless it goes state wide, and is matched in SW Washington. this would be a boon for gas stations in Milwaukie, Gresham or Vancouver, WA.
Novick is to be commended on thinking right, He is just not thinking big

Jon
Guest
Jon

Sending it to voters is a cop out. Leaders chart out a path and follow that path. If we don’t agree with their path we vote them out. If our leaders only allow us to vote on things that they find poll well they are not leaders, they are followers.

George H.
Guest
George H.

Any tax must be put before city voters. Vote no on a gas tax.

PBOT *just* hired an “equity and inclusion” person, paying them a $100k salary, when the city has an entire Office Of Equity And Inclusion, whose job is to provide bureaus with that expertise. How many flashing crosswalks were nixed to hire a non-necessary position?

Pass a gas tax and PBOT will waste most of it on administration and feel-good stuff. Reform the system first.

J_R
Guest
J_R

I’ll definitely vote for it at 10 cents per gallon and would support more especially statewide or nationally. I think 10 cents is too much to garner a majority vote. If I were a commissioner, I’d be advocating a vote on a tax in the 3 to 5 cent range as a “foot in the door.” I think Eugene’s tax at 5 cents per gallon is currently the highest levied by an Oregon city.

cooper
Guest
cooper

Ah yes, Novick… leading from behind.

JF
Guest
JF

Good luck with this. I support it, but good luck. Don’t see it happening.

Phil Richman
Subscriber

Why is there little to no discussion of parking fees to raise revenue? What studies exist that show the percentage of single occupancy vehicle drivers? The ubiquitous SOV’s in this town indicate driving is too cheap.

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

Tigard had or has a 10 cent tax but everyone forgot about it. All it did was increase the size of the area their police cars patrol (out to Hillsboro).

Dan
Subscriber

I would like to see the tax assessed as a percentage of the amount spent, rather than as “x cents per gallon”. This would help keep pace with inflation over time.

Spiffy
Subscriber

“paving projects” seems like a cheap solution… that’s not repaving the road, that’s throwing 3″-4″ of new pavement on top of a deteriorating road…

they keep piling more and more pavement on top of the old crumbling pavement… when I step off the curb at my GF’s house I step UP to the road… the curbs were originally 8″ high and are now barely 2″ with the center of the narrow roadway (2 parking lanes, 1 travel lane) about 8″ higher than the surrounding curbs…

they’ve been cheap by paving over the old without tearing out the bad road first… those old defects they’re covering will come back just the same…

try riding a trike around residential areas and you’re either leaning a lot for fear of tipping over or you’re riding in the center of the street…

I know the roads are supposed to have a slight crown, but it’s become ridiculous…

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Member

Where do we sign up to phone bank for this?

Brian Landoe
Guest
Brian Landoe

I’m seeing a surprising amount of push-back and skepticism in these comments. A gas-tax is almost certainly the most politically doable, and technically feasible revenue mechanism available to the city. It will bring millions in safety improvements that would not happen otherwise, while also maintaining the city’s paved assets.

The city has tried and failed for 20 years to raise money for streets, and we’re finally at a point to bring in new revenue—revenue which the state constitution mandates must be spent on streets. I see little prudence in derailing this momentum over imprecise maintenance/safety percentages.

soren
Subscriber

“imprecise maintenance/safety percentages”

asking for a greater emphasis on safety is not “derailing”. i fail to see why you are framing this as a “take it, or leave it” deal.

J_R
Guest
J_R

No. Tigard’s tax is 3 cents per gallon.

Here’s the list from the state’s website:

Washington County $0.01
Multnomah County $0.03

City of Woodburn $0.01
City of Eugene $0.05
City of Springfield $0.03
City of Cottage Grove $0.03
City of Veneta $0.03
City of Tigard $0.03
City of Milwaukie $0.02
City of Coquille $0.03
City of Coburg $0.03
City of Astoria $0.03
City of Warrenton $0.03
City of Canby $0.03
City of Newport (Nov – May) $0.01
City of Newport (Jun – Oct) $0.03
City of Hood River $0.03
City of Tillamook $0.015
City of The Dalles $0.03
City of Stanfield $0.01
City of Sandy $0.01
City of Oakridge $0.03
City of Dundee $0.02
City of Sisters $0.03
City of Pendleton $0.04

Joseph E
Guest

I’m glad this is finally going forward. $0.10 a gallon is a small increase, but it is a good start. The city needs more dedicated funding for street safety improvements and repaving.

But I’m surprised they are putting it on the primary election ballot. In many cities, the primary electorate is older and more conservative than in the general election, especially if there isn’t a competitive presidential primary on the Democrat side. I hope this isn’t a mistake. It would be worth waiting till November 2016 for the vote, when many more people will turn out to vote.

mh
Guest
mh

Weight*miles fee, charged initially on estimate, reconciled at DEQ when some of us have to re-register. Those few whose gas burners are too old to have to go through DEQ would have to go to have their odometers read.

Seems perfect to me, and no one seems to agree. I am willing to pay it on each of my vehicles, if they provide a way to count the bike miles.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

I like a gas tax much more than the previous idea. My biggest issue with the street fee and creating new taxes is a completely new system to collect the money has to be created. The gas tax already has a collection process in place.

A good example is the Arts Tax. The amount of money needed to administer the tax is rediculous.

BJCefola
Subscriber

The funding deficit the city faces with infrastructure is big enough that no one measure will fix it. The gas tax is a place to start, and as such there’s a lot to like about it. It requires no new admin and it taxes something that I think brings to the city a lot of negative externalities (driving).

Kudos to everyone pushing for it.

BeavertonRider
Guest
BeavertonRider

Because there is not millions of wasted dollars in the City’s budget that could be better allocated to fund road maintenance and even bike infrastructure, right?

I mean, the dollars wasted to care for illegal immigrants who make their way to this illegal Sanctuary City. The multiple offices of diversity and inclusion. The millions blown on expensive consultants who pitch the same ideas that City employees do, but, because they’re from consultants, the City’s elected and appointed officials can duck responsibility for. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Before any of this nonsense moves forward, residents ought to be have a very bright light shown on the City’s budget and, no, the nonsensical budget that the City publishes each year that hides consultancy fees behind layers of expenditures with nonsensical titles attached to them.

Just say no to this money grab and compel the City to identify and prioritize it’s responsibilities and then fund them properly.

BeavertonRider
Guest
BeavertonRider

More from these incompetent leaders – https://www.portlandoregon.gov/mayor/article/529219:

“In 2013-14, Hales and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick have highlighted the need to address the estimated $90 million per year backlog of maintenance on city streets.

“Portlanders asked us to focus on fixing our streets. I listened. This budget does that,” Hales said. “This won’t solve the city’s whole street problem. But it shows we’re serious.””

Uh, no. First, they are elected to make prudent governing decisions, not listen to the most vocal people appealing to City Hall. So, forgive me, but you lose points every time you say you listened to the people and did x precisely because there’s no monolithic bloc out there calling for x, anyway.

Second, highlighting a need to get through a backlog of maintenance is not doing something, it’s merely saying something.

Check this out:
“His budget includes $8.89 million for paving; $6.89 million for street safety improvements; $1.5 million for the “Out of the Mud” program to pave dirt streets for the first time”

Cool, but then we see:
“Hales’ other major investment in basic services is $5.97 million to address homelessness and affordable-housing programs. That is atop the $90 million already in the city budget for housing from all sources, for a total of almost $100 million.”

Whoa. So an increase of $6 million which is nearly as much as total spending on street safety improvements and 75% of total spending on paving.

Priorities, people. This is very simple. We can continue to incentivize people to come here (illegally in many cases) so the City can spend tens of millions supporting them year-over-year. Meanwhile, we have a backlog of street maintenance of nearly $100 million.

Yeah, the priority is so hard to discern here.

BeavertonRider
Guest
BeavertonRider

This debate should really be about:

1) Fiscal responsibility;
2) Effective governance; and
3) Budget priorities

Notice that the gas tax ain’t even part of the discussion, yet?

Because you shouldn’t even get to a new tax levy without first concluding that the City is exercising proper fiscal responsibility – it is not; demonstrating effective governance of current organizations and personnel – it is not; and establishing budget priorities and funding them as such – it is not.

I am surprised by the blind support for a new tax levy without considering how poorly the City is currently managing it’s finite financial resources. The argument that, well, it’s just a dime per gallon, is really a cop-out. If that’s a rational basis, then why not start enacting all kinds of nickel and dime taxes?

Look, the City is fundamentally failing it’s fiduciary responsibilities when it seeks to increase spending on the homeless and affordable housing (funding the same programs that have produced today’s problems) in an amount nearly equal to total annual spending on street safety improvement and 75% of total annual paving while telling us that they listened to resident’s demands for more transportation funding.

If you don’t see the obvious contradiction there, then think harder and look closer.

Jeff Bernards
Guest
Jeff Bernards

Don’t forget your food comes down that road, for now the road is VERY important.

Barbara
Guest
Barbara

I’m disappointed. Too high initially especially compared to other areas.
Electric vehicles get off free. So do all the WASH drivers who come down Sandy Blvd each morning & night & cut through my neighborhood.
I already got screwed with the Sellwood bridge having to pay for it when I never use it but all the commuters from LO etc don’t.

Mark
Guest
Mark

The real solution is a nationwide tire tax. Everyone needs tires regardless of propulsion type. The used tire market would be worth more and it would be easy to tax by mile as every tire has a life expectancy. That would be too simple.

F350 tax: , $ 5000
Prius tax: $1,000
Motorcycles: $500

Mark
Guest
Mark

9watts
Why tires? The Danes have what may (to us) seem like astronomical taxes on cars. >100% if I’m not mistaken: https://www.cfe-eutax.org/taxation/road-tax/denmark And their modal split and general approach to transportation infrastructure is nothing to sniff at.Recommended 0

Because there is no way to avoid tires like one can for fuel. People are using electric cars, they are making their own biodiesel…etc to avoid tax. Sure, they don’t come out and say it…but they know it and smile inside.

Plus, it would have a positive effect on used tires. Now, only truly bald tires would go to the land fill. Heck, maybe even retreads might come back.

Tires are the direct damaging instrument to the roads.

Oh, tax studded tires at double the normal tax rate.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

More retreads and bald tires seems like a bad idea.