ELECTION 2016: Voters in Oregon cities could put portion of pot money to roads

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 9/26/2016

About six months after voters in the city of Portland approved a four-year, 10-cent-per-gallon tax on local gasoline sales, fall ballots in the state’s largest city will include another question to benefit transportation.

On the city’s fall ballot is a question, Measure 26-180, about whether to route some additional tax revenue to streets via a pot tax. In all, voters in about 70 cities around the state will decide this November whether to apply a local sales tax to recreational marijuana purchases.

The Oregon Legislature acted one year ago to permit local jurisdictions to seek voter approval for a local tax of up to 3 percent on recreational marijuana sales.

As a result, Portland’s fall ballot includes a question to establish a 3 percent tax on recreational marijuana sales. It is estimated the tax would raise up to $5 million per year for a segregated city fund.

Sales of medical marijuana would not be taxed.

The local tax would be added to the state tax on pot sales to total 20 percent. The state tax rate is set to drop from 25 percent to 17 percent on Jan. 1, 2017.

Tax revenue in the city of Portland estimated to be $3 million per year would be used for projects that include street infrastructure projects that improve safety. Other uses include drug and alcohol treatment programs, education programs, and public safety staffing.

Voters in two Coos County locales will decide whether to raise the local fuel tax rate to benefit area roadways.

Ballots in the cities of Coos Bay and North Bend will include questions to adopt a 4-cent-per-gallon local fuel tax for street maintenance and repair. The taxes would raise an estimated $300,000 and $260,000 per year, respectively.

Revenue could not be used for other street related improvements that include sidewalks, traffic signs and traffic signals.

Truck drivers subject to paying the weight-mile tax would be exempt from the local tax.

The tax measures are tie-barred, which requires voters in both cities to approve the measures or neither tax is implemented.

Elsewhere, voters in Columbia County will decide whether to raise revenue for roads, bridges and transit.

The county’s natural resources depletion fee is set at 15 cents per ton. Revenue collected from surface mining operations is used for county road work.

Measure 5-255 would increase the county’s depletion fee by 35 cents to 50 cents per ton. Of the new revenue, an additional dime would be earmarked for road and bridge improvements and maintenance. The other 25 cents would be applied to the county’s transit service.

For more 2016 election coverage from Land Line, click here.

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