SURPRISE FOUND IN METRO TAX MEASURE: In an analysis of the biggest tax measure on the November ballot sent to clients this week, the Portland accounting firm Moss Adams highlighted a previously unreported fact: Metro's $4 billion transportation bond measure, which has been billed as a payroll tax, could allow Metro to levy a tax on all compensation of affected employees, not just their salaries. "The ordinance as written imposes the tax on remuneration for services performed, including the cash value of all non-cash remuneration," Moss Adams told clients. That would mean taxing health care benefits, money deducted pretax for retirement contributions, etc., which could increase the amount taxed by 30% or more. Metro government affairs director Andy Shaw acknowledges the ordinance would allow Metro to tax non-cash compensation, but he says the agency doesn't intend to do that. "Items like benefits, employee deferrals to retirement savings plans, etc., were not a part of our revenue estimates," Shaw says, adding Metro will clarify definitions if the measure passes.
VOTERS DON'T LOVE IT: Meanwhile, opponents of the Metro transportation measure released select polling results showing that only 42% of likely voters support it. The survey by GS Strategy Group of 600 likely voters from Sept. 2 to 6 showed that number shrank to 32% after opponents tested arguments for and against the measure. The campaign for the measure accused opponents of lying, even before the memo on results had been released to reporters. "The opposition is clearly scared and can only cling to disingenuous distortions," says Jeff Anderson, secretary-treasurer of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, which backs the measure.
SIMPSON WILL CHALLENGE HERNANDEZ: When state Rep. Diego Hernandez (D-East Portland) faced revelations in May that a former girlfriend had filed for a restraining order alleging threatening behavior toward her, he was already secure in his bid to be the Democratic Party nominee for his legislative seat. And in a district as solidly Democratic as House District 47, a Republican challenger, Ryan Gardner, is not considered much of a threat. But now Hernandez faces a challenge from the left. Ashton Simpson, 35, an Air Force veteran who works for the nonprofit Rosewood Initiative, is challenging Hernandez on the Working Families Party ticket. Simpson, who grew up in Houston, has been active in transportation policy for the city and Metro's transportation bond. He says his priority is to get more resources to East Portland, a community he says has been neglected too long. "We need adequate representation," Simpson says.
PRISONS RISK COVID OUTBREAK: The Oregon Department of Corrections will quarantine thousands of prisoners who were evacuated to Deer Ridge Correctional Facility near Madras and Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem as wildfires ravaged the state. Since last week, lawyers, prisoners and their families described horrid conditions at both prisons after the state evacuated more than 2,700 inmates there from four other prisons. Prisoners at OSP reported sleeping on mattresses laid on the floor within inches of each other, sans masks, and others at Deer Ridge reported nosebleeds and rampant coughing because the smoke inside. ODOC spokeswoman Vanessa Vanderzee says groups of prisoners from different facilities "co-mingled out of necessity" following the evacuations, and that ODOC will quarantine them for 14 days. It is unclear when the inmates who were evacuated will return to their original facilities. Experts fear an impending mass spreading event. "It could exacerbate an outbreak," says Dr. Marc Stern, a physician who specializes in correctional health care. "Most prisons were not designed for infectious disease isolation and quarantining."
WHAT TIME IS IT? CLARNO ASKS COURT: It's 5 o'clock somewhere, but Secretary of State Bev Clarno and the Oregon Department of Justice have asked an appeals court to rule precisely what 5 o'clock means. The state will appeal a decision by a Marion County circuit judge this week that Clarno must include the Oregon Republican Party's statement in the November Voters' Pamphlet even though it missed the 5 pm Aug. 25 deadline by 29 seconds. Clarno says she'll print the GOP statement but wants the Oregon Court of Appeals to provide clarity on what the deadline means. "I still believe 5 pm is 5 pm, and we will appeal the ruling to ensure there is a bright line for filing requirements going forward," she said. "I and our Elections Division remain deeply committed to administering all of our election processes in an open, transparent and nonpartisan manner."