After Delaying a Vote, the Regional Government Metro to Refer a Homeless Services Measure to the May Ballot

The vote will be Tuesday. Metro had considered a smaller measure this week, but a math error forced Metro to reanalyze the proposal. Advocates had objected as well to a smaller measure.

The regional government Metro is expected to refer a $250 million a year measure to the May ballot for funding homeless services, advocates for the measure announced today.

It's been a chaotic week for the homeless services measure that Metro has been preparing for the May ballot.

The Here Together Coalition had been pushing for 2 percent tax on all income earned by high-income households.

Metro will instead refer a 1 percent marginal tax, so income above $250,000 for joint filers (and above $125,000 for single filers) will be taxed. And there will also be a new business income tax, with an exemption for small businesses. The vote is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

That package is expected to have the backing of Portland's business community.

The Portland Business Alliance had helped push for the measure but had objected to the 2 percent high-income earner tax, favored by advocates. The board of PBA backed the taxing mechanisms announced today but has not taken a formal position on the measure.

“This agreement represents countless hours of active engagement by our region’s leaders and provides a more resilient, progressive funding mechanism so that the measure does what it’s drafted to do — help those who need it most,” said Andrew Hoan, president and CEO of PBA, greater Portland’s Chamber of Commerce. “As the region’s largest and most diverse business community, we are proud to be long-time collaborators with all those committed to solving chronic homelessness.”

The backing of the business community is potentially the most significant announcement to come today, it had been previewed on the House floor, when Speaker Tina Kotek referred a bill to allow Metro to impose a 2 percent income tax to committee to die, citing an agreement between PBA and advocates as well as Metro.

The PBA's backing could mean the bill faces limited opposition in the May primary.

The decision comes three days after Metro unexpectedly announced a staff recommendation for a smaller measure—which it originally projected would raise $175 million a year. But the math on that recommendation was wrong by at least $40 million.

That error, along with advocates' objections to a smaller measure, forced a reconsideration.

WW reported yesterday that Metro Council President Lynn Peterson told a roomful of key stakeholders on Wednesday that she would back a $250 million a year measure.

Metro had declined to confirm her commitment to a larger measure as recently as yesterday, but her statement today backed the agreement.

"This groundbreaking agreement makes it clear – everyone agrees that this issue is urgent and solvable," said Metro Council President Lynn Peterson. "Through a marginal tax on high income earners, and a small tax on businesses that exempts small business, we can, and will, pay for the services needed to meaningfully address homelessness in greater Portland."

The announcement today was accompanied by statements from elected officials of the three counties and Portland as well as Here Together:

  • “It is a rare moment when leaders from the region come together in a unified voice. We found that voice today and I look forward to our community’s future success in preventing and reducing homelessness,” said Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard.
  • “Today’s historic agreement sets the table for an unprecedented — and compassionate — regional response to homelessness. The challenge before us cuts across county lines and city limits, and demands we come together to act. We now have total agreement on that response,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury.
  • “If we don’t pass this funding measure, our region will forever lose what’s always made us so special,” said Kathryn Harrington, Chair of the Washington County Board of Commissioners. “As a former Metro Councilor, I am confident that Metro’s track record of efficient, prudent management and effective oversight will ensure that this measure will be effective at helping those most in need.”
  • “No city, county, region, or state can do this work alone. By coming together, we send this message to our most vulnerable neighbors: you’re not alone in your journey, we’re here to help,” said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.

The advocates for the measure celebrated reaching the deal. "We know what works to address this issue, and we only needed commitment to scale up what works. Now, we know how we're going to make it happen," said said Katrina Holland, HereTogether Advisory Committee chair, and Executive Director of JOIN.

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