PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - On this November's ballot, Portlanders will be making decisions about several new taxes, including one to fund new safety measures across the metro area's biggest corridors.
Supporters say the tax would be funded by implementing a payroll tax on the largest corporations in the area, but others say ultimately, it's the employees who would pay. FOX 12 spoke to people on both sides of the argument regarding Measure 26-218.
The measure, proposed by Metro, is known as Let's Get Going 2020. Metro says if passed, the tax would fund a new light rail, a bus network, and improvements to sidewalk and traffic safety.
"What we’re going to see from that are enhanced crosswalks, more street lighting, safety calming measures," Jess Thompson, executive director with Oregon Walks, said.
Metro hopes that Let's Get Going 2020 will help raise more then five billion dollars for its proposed projects.
"We don’t have a sales tax, we have crumbling infrastructure," Thompson said. "We need to invest in these kinds of improvements so that their employees do want to stay in the Pacific Northwest."
Supporters say that money will come from just nine percent of businesses in the metro area. The proposed tax would require companies with 26 employees or more to pay up to .75 of their total payroll.
"We worked really hard in crafting this measure to make sure that it’s a payroll tax that just a small number of businesses are actually going to be paying into," Thompson said. "It’s the largest corporations in the Metro area."
But opponents say that's not actually how it would work out.
"There’s a lot of economic evidence that says it doesn’t matter who legally has to pay it, the people who ultimately pay it are the workers themselves," Eric Fruits, vice president of research at Cascade Policy Institute, said.
Fruits is on the board of the Taxpayers Association of Oregon, a group that says it acts as a watchdog for the state and protects taxpayers.
Fruit says that projects like a light rail from Portland to Bridgeport Mall and improvements on busy highways won't actually help congestion and traffic.
"There’s not much work on TV Highway to relieve that congestion," Fruit said. "It’s more about, in some ways, making congestion worse, because these so-called safety improvements are designed to hinder automobile traffic."
Metro says that's not the case and says improvements are needed to protect the communities most at risk.
"If this fails, we don’t get anything from it," Aaron Brown with Let's Get Moving 2020 said. "We get zero. There’s no traffic improvements, no safety measures. TV Highway, 82nd Avenue, McLoughlin, these streets and corridors that routinely kill and injure vulnerable Oregonians and will continue to do so."
Supporters say that the tax is going to force large corporations to pay their fair share to enjoy a vibrant community. But opponents say it could just end up driving businesses out of the metro area.
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