Portland's Proposed Pot Tax Would Fund Public Safety, Drug Treatment—and Officers' Salaries?

Mayor Charlie Hales is looking for more money for cops' salaries as the City Council weighs sending a 3 percent pot tax to voters.

Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz wants the city's proposed pot tax to pay for drug and alcohol treatment and public safety, but she's also hoping fellow commissioners will back a plan to use the tax to pay for "street infrastructure" and programs to help Portlanders who've suffered professionally and economically because of past pot convictions.

The tax, capped by the 2015 Oregon Legislature at 3 percent, is estimated to generate $3 million to $5 million a year. It would apply only to sales on recreational marijuana.

The proposal is just the latest from City Hall to seek additional revenue for city services. Portland voters in May approved a 10-cent per gallon gas tax to pay for street improvements, and this November voters also will be asked to consider a $250 million bond for affordable housing.

It comes as Mayor Charlie Hales is seeking money to pay for higher salaries for police officers in an effort to improve retention. An earlier effort to raise money for the police bureau—an increase to the city's business license tax—failed to get support from a majority of commissioners. But in a press release Monday about the proposed pot tax, Fritz's office made no specific mention of using the revenue to pay for the salary increases.

Those raises would cost taxpayers between $6.8 million to $9 million a year when fully implemented, according to The Oregonian.

Claire Adamsick, a Fritz aide, said Tuesday the city council will consider other options Wednesday during the discussion to refer the pot tax to voters in November."Public safety, which includes police resources, is on the table," she writes in an email.

Sara Hottman, a spokeswoman for Hales, says the mayor supports the pot tax, and wants to earmark some of the money for salaries and retention.

"Right now we have 64 vacant positions," says Hottman. "These positions are budgeted for and not filled. Extra revenue would be allocated to increased officer salary so they wouldn't go to other jurisdictions."

Fritz also wants money from the proposed tax to go to street safety and programs that help Portlanders whose pre-legalization criminal records for pot possession have "hampered their professional and financial mobility."

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