If not the hyper-regressive TUF to fix streets and sidewalks, what?

Chris Lowe

Having been hard on Charlie Hales and Steve Novick for doing the easy thing in putting forward a hyper-regressive road and sidewalk revenue proposal, let me suggest alternative ideas to bring into the genuine public debate that I've called on them to lead:

-- A local gas and diesel fuel tax. Ideally regional, through Metro, or in more localized collaboration with other cities that face similar challenges, but Portland only if need be.

-- An excise tax or utility fee levied on vehicles rather than households and businesses, using a combination of vehicle value (progressive) and weight (wear on roads). This tax or fee should include a fee on long-term parking by out-of-town commuters, who impose wear on city roads.

-- Recognize that development of new or substantially improved roads and sidewalks is economic and social development, different in kind from maintenance, and use PDC revenues for such development, shifting them from subsidizing real estate development.

-- A modest progressive income tax tied to either federal (more progressive) or state (less progressive) income taxes.

These ideas embody several principles:

1) Revenues should be connected to actual usage and wear on roads and sidewalks.

2) Revenue methods should support city policy of encouraging use of mass transit, more fuel efficient cars and trucks, bicycles, walking for reasons of public health and ecological sustainability.

3) Revenue sources should recognize new costs imposed on the city by annexations in the last thirty-five years where road and sidewalk infrastructure was much less developed (specifically relates to PDC revenue idea).

4) Revenue sources should recognize that property tax restrictions has led to shifting of spending to other public safety, public health and human services needs and reflect policy to use progressive taxation for such purposes as a matter of social equity and justice (specifically relates to progressive aspects of vehicle fees and/or to progressive income tax).

The current TUF proposal fails on all of those principles.

The Oregonian is now reporting that Council may delay the vote on the TUF proposal scheduled for Wednesday. The best outcome would be if they scrapped it entirely, and pursued a wider public process to address this real problem. If that should happen, I will go into these ideas more.

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