As Metro Prepares to Refer $4 Billion Transportation Measure, Business Interests Ready Opposition Campaign

Metro President Lynn Peterson says the time is now. Employers don’t want a new payroll tax in a COVID-19-wracked economy.

Buses and trains in Portland's Old Town. (Henry Cromett)

Representatives of the region's largest private companies, including Intel, Nike, the Standard, Precision Castparts and U.S. Bank, met with Metro Council President Lynn Peterson on July 14, urging her to delay a planned referral of a $4 billion transportation measure to the November ballot.

That ballot is likely also to feature funding measures for preschool, K-12 schools, health care and libraries. In addition to concerns about timing, business leaders don't like Metro's proposed funding mechanism, a 0.75% payroll tax. They told Peterson they are prepared to mount a serious opposition campaign and have retained political consultant Kevin Looper to run it.

"This is not anti-tax and it most certainly is not anti-transportation," say Looper, who successfully managed Metro's previous housing and homeless services bond measures. "But you can't punish employment in the middle of an economic crisis when people are struggling just to make ends meet."

Peterson is undaunted: "The time to act is now," she said. "If we delay, we will not be able to create tens of thousands of jobs when we need them most, and our region could miss opportunities to leverage federal, private and philanthropic funds."

The Metro Council is scheduled to vote on the referral July 16.

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