Portland State University President Wim Wiewel tells the Portland Tribune the school is planning a 2016 ballot initiative for a regional payroll tax.
Wiewel tells the Trib that PSU isn't getting enough money from the Oregon Legislature, and he wants to raise $35 million a year with a metro-area payroll tax of about one-tenth of 1 percent.
The Tribune story says officials at regional government Metro are keeping their distance.
The concept of a PSU payroll tax was first discussed by state Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) on her radio show last week. She tells the Trib she and Wiewel have discussed the idea.
“He and I had a rather robust conversation,” she says, but notes that she doesn’t think the proposal got any traction at Metro. “Apparently, there’s not much enthusiasm for this.”
That lack of enthusiasm is understandable.
This effort comes on the heels of a major embarrassment for PSU: the university's botched handling of a promised $100 million gift that was never more than a fantasy.
Wiewel is also demonstrating a surprising lack of understanding of next year's ballot, which is almost certain to include a multibillion-dollar tax hike for all Oregonians; a gas tax for Portlanders; and possibly a $500 million capital bond measure for Portland Public Schools. In addition, Gov. Kate Brown, lawmakers and the business community are preparing to ask all Oregonians to fund transportation improvements with a gas tax in 2017.
In short, PSU's timing could not be much worse.