The Facts

What This Measure Does

A New Tax for You – But Not for Metro: The measure creates a permanent new $5.2 billion tax on compensation on private employers, colleges, churches and non-profits in the Portland tri-county area. It applies up to a .75 tax on the total compensation – including wages, benefits, retirement, commission, and bonuses – of more than 70% of all workers in the region. Recognizing how harmful and expensive their tax would be, at the last minute, Metro exempted itself and other state and local governments from paying its new tax.

A Slow Train to a Fancy Mall, No Congestion Relief & Displaced Families: The centerpiece of the measure is construction of a new $2.4 billion, 11-mile light rail line from downtown Portland to the high-end Bridgeport Village shopping area in Tigard – at a time when MAX ridership is declining. As many as 300 homes and 150 businesses will be forcibly displaced. The measure dedicates just 3% of its spending to address traffic congestion across our region.

Too Much Money & Too Little Accountability: If voters approve the new tax on wages and other compensation, Metro can change both the rate of the tax and the projects it is promising to fund — without a vote of the people. Its own auditor recently raised red-flags about Metro’s bloated overhead costs, misplaced spending, lack of transparency and conflicts of interest in administering voter-approved housing bonds.

Why You Should Oppose This Measure

Prioritize Jobs and Families
No on 26-218

During this economic crisis, every dollar counts – for families and government. Instead of a permanent new $5.2 billion tax to pay for an expensive light-rail line to a high-end shopping mall in Tigard, we need to prioritize protecting jobs, supporting local schools and businesses and keeping families afloat. Now is exactly the wrong time for a new tax on wages and benefits.

Protect Paychecks
No on 26-218

With families struggling to make ends meet, this regressive new tax will impact wages and benefits for 70% of all workers in the Portland-area. This is not a tax on profits or the wealthy – it is permanent new tax on working people’s wages and benefits. Whether you work for a business, non-profit, hospital, charity or church – this new tax will shrink your paycheck and threaten your job. During this unprecedented economic crisis, we need to protect family paychecks and jobs.  

Stop Insider Deals
No on 26-218

Metro wrote the tax and then exempted themselves from paying it – while still requiring struggling businesses, non-profits, hospitals, and colleges to pay. Metro can change both the rate of the tax and the projects they choose to fund – without another vote of the people. Metro’s own auditor recently raised red-flags about its bloated overhead, lack of transparency and conflicts of interest. Having already imposed $3.6 billion in taxes the past two years alone,  Metro can’t be trusted with another new tax and billions more to spend.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Metro wage tax measure?
  • Measure 26-218 is the largest tax increase in our region’s history, during an unprecedented economic downturn.
  • The measure creates a new, permanent $5.2 billion tax on the wages, benefits, and retirement of employees in Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties.
If it passes, what does the Metro wage tax measure do?
  • It obligates employers and their employees to pay more but doesn’t obligate Metro to keep its promises about who to pay, how much the rate is, or how the money is spent.
  • The measure authorizes the Metro Council to create a new permanent tax not just on employee wages, but on benefits and retirement in the tri-county area.
  • It even taxes employers outside the tri-county area who provide services inside the tri-county area.
  • Each year the Metro Council is free to increase or decrease the tax rate up to .75 percent.
  • Beyond being prohibitively expensive, it is unworkable for employers, requiring a new accounting system to apply the tax to the wages, benefits, and retirement of all their employees.
What does Metro plan to spend this money on?
  • Light rail to a shopping mall, primarily. Other projects as money allows.
  • The spending plan’s single largest expenditure is light rail line along the I-5 south corridor from Portland to the high-end Bridgeport Village shopping mall in Tigard.
  • Construction of the line will forcibly condemn an entire community, destroying up to 160 homes and 130 businesses and displacing more than 900 employees.
  • While Metro wants to spend billions on light rail, it has neglected to address concerns on I-5, I-205, US-26, or OR-217.
  • Only 3 percent is dedicated to congestion relief.
  • In contrast to previous Metro ballot initiatives, spending is not distributed proportionally among tax-paying counties – most of the Metro’s spending benefits Multnomah County.
  • Up to seventeen transportation projects are planned, yet the measure obligates Metro to fund none of them.
  • Even if all the projects are completed, the tax continues and can be spent at the Council’s discretion without voter approval.
Who pays the wage tax?
  • Nearly everyone but Metro itself. They exempted themselves and other government entities.
  • Employers with 25 employees or more — including nonprofits, churches, charities, schools, colleges, and small businesses — and their employees will pay this tax on wages and benefits.
  • Employers outside Metro with staff who perform work within Metro’s boundaries.
  • Franchises whose franchise is part a business with more than 25 employees.
Who is exempted from paying this tax?
  • Metro and its employees.
  • All state and local government agencies and their nearly 100,000 employees’ wages are exempted from this tax.
  • Businesses receiving COVID-19 relief or otherwise struggling with the economic fall-out of the pandemic are NOT exempted from this tax.
  • Nonprofits, churches, charities, schools, colleges, and small businesses are NOT exempted from this tax.
Is this the right plan for right now?
  • This is the wrong plan at the wrong time.
  • This is not a progressive tax on busines profits or high-income earners.
  • It’s an appallingly regressive tax — and dangerously timed as our economy struggles.
  • A wage-based tax on employment punishes working families by threating jobs and take-home pay.
  • A tax on wages and health and retirement benefits will hurt those on the lowest end of the pay scale or more vulnerable businesses as it puts pressures on every business to react to these new costs.
  • By exempting government but not non-profits or struggling sectors of our economy, Metro has ensured that this measure will hurt our families and our economic recovery.
  • Struggling businesses will be forced to choose between reducing their payrolls and keeping their doors open in the face of this tax.
What should government’s focus be?
  • Meeting our critical priorities of protecting children, jobs, paychecks, and communities.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has put pressure on all levels of government, on non-profits, and on businesses.
  • Wildfires are tearing through our state like never before.
  • Responsible conversation about revenue at all levels of government can and should be taking place, but must include a broad coalition of all sectors to ensure that we are moving forward responsibly and sustainably together.
  • We have not yet moved beyond the pandemic and are still struggling to recover from the wildfires and reopen our schools and our economy.
Isn’t transportation important to our economic future?
  • Transportation investments are important but cannot be our top priority when our economy is cratering, our kids’ education is compromised, a pandemic is raging, and our state is recovering from the unprecedented wildfires.
  • The only way our region can move forward is to meet the critical priorities of protecting children, jobs, paychecks, and communities.
  • Right now every dollar counts at this critically important time to ensure our children’s education doesn’t suffer as schools are forced to redesign curricula and their entire education platforms.
  • Keeping the quality of our schools protected is of paramount concern – and the cost for doing so is competing for dollars in this very election.
  • Metro insists on voting on this measure before we know the needs of our schools, health care, communities, or economy.
Didn’t Metro just raise our taxes?
  • In the last two years alone, Metro has passed a housing bond, a parks measure, and a homeless services measure totaling $3.6 billion in taxes on consumers, property, income, and local businesses.
  • It’s time for Metro to live within our means.
  • Metro is currently advocating in Salem for a statewide tax on vehicle miles traveled to provide another permanent revenue source to finance its growing agenda.
How did Metro develop its proposal?
  • Metro spent nearly two years discussing transportation projects, but only a few weeks discussing the wage tax – and only one meeting hastily exempting itself and other government agencies from its impact.
  • Metro exempted itself and passed a permanent tax that punishes non-profits and most struggling businesses.
  • Metro’s massive tax increase is still not enough to pay for its own project list, and there is still no clear indication how it will cover the gap – with the exception of a new statewide vehicle miles travels tax.
  • The tax is permanent, and Metro may vary the rate and spend it elsewhere at any time without a public vote.
Will the Metro wage tax curtail carbon emissions?
  • The Metro wage tax is not a climate change measure.
  • According to an analysis by City Observatory, spending $5.2 billion on Metro’s plan will reduce regional transportation emissions by only .05 percent.
  • Construction for the SW Corridor light rail line will generate more carbon emissions than can be recovered by operating the line.
  • Alternative transportation advocates criticize Metro’s package as failing to reduce both emissions and congestion, despite investment in bike lanes and bus passes.
Will the Metro wage tax create jobs?
  • This is a job killing tax levied on the vast majority of workers in the metro area.
  • Even on its own terms, the jobs Metro’s proposal will create will be temporary, tied to out-of-state firms, and of limited benefit to our local economy.
  • Out-of-state funders of the pro-tax campaign will benefit while local jobs are harmed.
  • Metro’s plan to erase thousands of local, permanent jobs across every sector of our economy for temporary, out-of-state jobs that benefit the top donors to its measure is not the way to grow and sustain our employment base.
Will the Metro wage tax build equity in communities of color?
  • While specific projects may benefit specific communities on the spending side, the overall effect on the payment side will be inequitable for communities of color.
  • The lowest-wage workers that are disproportionately comprised of communities of color will be disproportionately hit hardest.
  • The households that can least afford this new tax and most need job security – disproportionately represented by households of color – are the households most at risk.