Not surprisingly, the fundraising around Measure 26-238, the proposed 0.75% capital gains tax on the May 16 ballot, is off to a lopsided start.
A committee that opposes the measure, called Building Our Future Together, has raised $185,000, with notable cash contributions from the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors ($50,000), the Oregon Association of Realtors ($12,500), and the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, Oregon Chapter ($10,000). Killian Pacific ($10,000), a leading developer, along two of the city’s largest law firms, Davis Wright Tremaine ($10,000) and Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt ($5,000), have also contributed to the PAC.
As WW reported earlier, the proposed tax would apply to all long-term capital gains, as defined by the Internal Revenue Service, regardless of the recipient’s income level. Generally speaking, that means the 0.75% tax would apply to profits on the sale of capital assets such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds and property held for more than a year. The proceeds of the tax, which the proponents estimate to be $12 million to $15 million annually, would be used primarily to hire lawyers to represent tenants facing eviction.
There are major points of contention between the campaign that put the measure on the ballot—Eviction Representation for All—and critics of the measure. One of those points is whether the sale of a primary residence would trigger the tax (critics say it would; proponents say that is not their intention).
Whether or not the tax would offer, as federal rules do, a one-time exemption for the first $250,000 from the sale of a primary residence ($500,000 for taxpayers filing jointly), the tax would certainly apply to the sale of investment properties. That would reduce the number of transactions, which is bad for real estate brokers.
Tony Kelly, president-elect of the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors, says the capital gains tax measure is “not only unnecessary, it’s a step backwards for our historically underserved communities.”
Kelly, who is Black, points to what he says is an equity issue.
“Black people in our community have historically faced barriers to home ownership,” Kelly says. “As a Realtor, I’m proud to help people become homeowners, and we’re seeing home ownership gains in communities of color. But Measure 26-238 will impede that progress, by adding a burdensome tax on homeowners, regardless of income. Fortunately, eviction prevention programs already exist, funded with existing tax dollars.”
Related: A Capital Gains Tax on the May Ballot Casts a Wide but Uncertain Net
Given that the measure would benefit people facing eviction, it’s predictable that proponents have not collected nearly as much money as opponents.
Eviction Representation for All, the group that worked to get the measure on the ballot, raised $32,000 last year. A related campaign committee, Tenants Organizing Against Displacement, raised $62,000 last year and has reported raising a little over $6,000 so far this year. The biggest organizational donors to the effort include the Democratic Socialists of America of New York ($9,985), DSA Portland ($3,025), and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 75 ($2,000). The largest individual donations came from Eric Gold ($5,000) and John Poblocki ($3,000).
The campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ballots for the May 16 election (which also includes a three-way race for Multnomah County commissioner to replace Jessica Vega Pederson, who vacated her seat when she won the chair’s race last year, and a number of school board contests) will be mailed April 26.