Democratic Momentum Against Metro Wage Tax Surging

October 22, 2020

PORTLAND – Adding to the regional Democratic leaders opposed to Metro’s permanent wage tax, U.S. Rep.  Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon, and state Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Happy Valley, are letting their constituents know where they stand on Measure 26-218. 

“It seems ridiculous to be raising taxes on business in the middle of a pandemic on top of other taxes that are coming due,” said Schrader. “It makes no sense to levy a new payroll tax that discourages employers from hiring new people.”

Schrader also expressed concerns with Measure 26-218’s priorities. “It really doesn’t do anything to relieve congestion,” Schrader said, noting additional concerns about mission creep. “Light rail is TriMet’s business.”

“The timing of it,” Bynum said, “that’s probably my biggest concern: making sure our economy has a robust recovery and taking these tax measures – and there’s a whole host of them – into consideration very carefully.”

Bynum, a leader of the House BIPOC caucus, cited “a disconnect between who’s really paying” for measures that voters feel good about approving, and noted the growing burden that tax measures are adding to the cost of living for households of color in the region. 

Schrader and Bynum’s opposition to Measure 26-218 comes in addition to the opposition of other prominent regional Democratic leaders, including leaders with deep expertise in taxes and how to structure sustainable revenue proposals. 

They include:

  • Democratic State Treasurer Tobias Read:

“I’m definitely not anti-tax or anti-transit. But when the pandemic hit and the recession followed, that’d be a time to reassess both what is needed and how it affects the various folks who work and would be affected by it. I don’t see that happening and I think the collaboration that’s really needed has dissipated, so I’ll be voting no.”

  • Democratic Senate Revenue Committee Chair Mark Hass, D-Beaverton:

“As the Chair of the Oregon Senate Revenue Committee, I don’t believe taxes are evil and I strongly support a transportation system that delivers health and economic benefits. But Metro has done a poor job of uniting the two in this proposal. It needs to be sent back to the drawing board.”

  • Democratic Senate Ways & Means Committee Co-Chair Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose:

“Throughout my career, I have been a steadfast supporter of transportation. There are absolutely improvements we need to make, including fixing bottlenecks in the region. But this is too big, too bloated, and too burdensome.”

  • Democratic House Ways & Means Committee member Jeff Barker, D-Aloha

“As a Democrat, I’m frankly appalled that this tax is regressive, punishing employment and generating revenue based on the total compensation paid to employees.”

The Democrats opposing Metro’s wage tax are among  the most informed and influential of tax policy experts in the state. They are not opposed to revenue or transportation but do believe that this is the wrong tax at the wrong time, and that Metro needs to go back to the drawing board.