Multnomah County Capital Gains Tax to Fund Eviction-Relief Lawyers Qualifies for May Ballot

The campaign turned in signatures in November.

The county with the second-highest top marginal income tax rate in the country will ask voters to consider adding another tax—this one a 0.75% tax on capital gains.

The proceeds of the Multnomah County tax would be used to hire lawyers for tenants facing eviction. As WW reported earlier this month, the threat of eviction is growing as pandemic-era protections expire.

On Dec. 22, county elections director Tim Scott notified the county board the measure met the threshold: 6% of the number of voters who cast a ballot in the last race for governor. That number equated to 22,686 valid signatures, and the campaign turned in 24,216.

The measure will now appear on the ballot for May 16, 2023. That is a challenge for proponents—turnout in off-year May elections is notoriously slim (16.24% in 2019, 24.87% in 2021) and voters in primary elections tend to be older and more conservative. It’s also an opportunity because the light turnout means a well-organized campaign can pass a measure with relatively few votes.

As WW previously reported, proponents of the measure, the Eviction Representation for All campaign, hope the new tax will raise $12 million to $15 million per year. They say they’ve modeled it on similar programs in 16 jurisdictions, including Cleveland, New York City and San Francisco.

Donovan Scribes, the communications manager for the Community Alliance of Tenants, applauded election officials’ determination that the measure will be on the ballot.

“CAT was proud to be an early endorser of the ERA campaign and we are excited to know it’s heading for a vote this May,” Scribes says. “With evictions spiking above pre-pandemic levels across the state, this ensuring that every renter that ends up in eviction court has the right to counsel is one tool to balance the power, and hopefully, keep more people housed.”

The campaign celebrated making the ballot last week with a tweet.

“Thank you to the 147 people who volunteered to gather signatures, we hope you are celebrating with us today!” the tweet said. “We are taking on the eviction crisis in 2023 - Join us!”

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