The Portland City Council this morning delayed a vote on Commissioner Sam Adams' proposed $464 million transportation tax package
, after amending the plan to satisfy concerns from the Oregon Petroleum Association
In a statement read by Adams, OPA rep Paul Romain—who had gotten into testy debates with Adams and Commissioner Randy Leonard at previous hearings, at one point threatening to strip naked in the Council chambers—said his organization would no longer seek to refer Adams' plan to the voters.
"They didn't get what they wanted, but we compromised on their rate," Adams said.
The compromise means the city could lose about $75,000 a year in revenues from convenience stores, or about enough to pay for new traffic lights at one intersection over the life of the tax, says Adams adviser Shoshanah Oppenheim.*
Under the city's plan, businesses would be assessed a monthly "street maintenance fee" based on the estimated number of vehicle trips they generate. The compromise entails creating a new classification for convenience and small grocery stores—think Qwik-E-Mart
—which will be billed at a lower rate.
Under Adams' plan, any Portland business or resident will be free to appeal their fee assessment. The OPA, however, was able to do so in advance, on behalf of its membership.
Adams' deal with the OPA also stipulates that gasoline distributors will be first in line to have their street maintenance fees lowered if the State Legislature passes a gas tax increase.
The state gas tax has not been increased since 1993, which is why Adams decided to pursue a local tax in order to pay for the city's street maintenance "backlog." The money will be used to repave streets, install new traffic signals and add bike routes.
The Council will vote on Adams' plan at its meeting next week. It will likely pass. Adams had broken the tax package into three pieces in order to complicate the OPA's ballot-referral effort
and defuse possible legal challenges.
But now that the gasoline dealers have been appeased, the council will vote on a single ordinance next week.
"Now that they've agreed not to pursue a referral, I feel comfortable moving forward with one ordinance," said Adams, who's running for mayor.
Commissioner Dan Saltzman and current Mayor Tom Potter were absent this morning.
In other breaking news, an Oregonian
reporter accidentally knocked over one of the flagpoles in the Council chambers, causing Old Glory to be draped over the carpet for a few disgraceful seconds
"Why do you hate America?" said Adams.
* Oppenheim called this afternoon to correct an off-the-cuff estimate offered by another staffer this morning, that the changes would cost roughly $500,000 a year.