Judge Rules CAN Arts Tax Isn't a Head Tax

 A Multnomah County Circuit Court judge has ruled that the Creative Advocacy Network arts tax backed by Mayor Sam Adams isn't an unconstitutional poll tax or head tax.

That means the arts tax, approved by the City Council last month, can head to the November ballot unhindered by two legal challenges. The tax would take a flat $35 from the income of each Portland resident, so long as that person is over 18 and above federal poverty guidelines.

Two Portland residents, including a Portland State University professor, had challenged the tax's constitutionality.

Judge John A. Wittmayer ruled that the ballot measure needed to change two words: the phrase "income tax capped at $35 per yer" has been changed to "income tax of $35 per year."

"The proposed tax at issue here is not a head tax or a poll tax because it is not assessed per capita—it is assessed only upon income-earning individuals age 18 or older in households above the federal poverty guidelines," Wittmayer ruled. 

Adams, who has pushed the CAN tax to fund arts teachers in Portland schools, celebrated the ruling in a statement. "We appreciate this decision," Adams said, "and are glad the measure can go forward so that the citizens of this city can decide for themselves."

PSU urban studies professor Dr. Eric Fruits, who filed one of the challenges, said he was disappointed but not surprised.

"It was kind of a curious ruling," Fruits said. "It's kind of odd that the judge is taking the expansive view that it's not a poll tax if even one person is exempted."

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