Portland, Ore., Retail Revenue Tax Initiative Makes Ballot

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By Paul Shukovsky

A Portland, Ore., initiative designed to address the differential impacts of climate change on the city’s communities of color and low-income residents will be on the ballot in November

The Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Initiative calls for levying a 1 percent surcharge on gross revenue from retail sales in Portland on large retailers, defined as those with gross revenue exceeding $1 billion nationally and $500,000 in the city.

The estimated $30 million in annual revenue generated would be used on renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, emphasizing “those that benefit low-income individuals and that broaden access to energy efficiency and clean renewable energy infrastructure to low income communities and communities of color.” Projects such as housing upgrades and increasing the urban tree canopy are under consideration in a city where the forecast high July 30 is 97 degrees.

The Portland Auditor’s office certified the measure late July 27 to go before voters in the Nov. 6 general election, declaring that it had received the required 34,156 valid signatures. The initiative campaign submitted more than 61,000 signatures, campaign spokesman Damon Motz-Storey told Bloomberg Tax July 30.

Business Opposition Forming

The measure is supported by a broad coalition of environmental and social-justice groups. The Sierra Club is among the top contributors to the campaign, having donated $25,000 in May, according to the Secretary of State’s office. The campaign has received about $124,000, the Secretary of State’s election finance website showed July 30. Motz-Storey said the campaign has begun canvassing neighborhoods, knocking on doors, and putting up yard signs.

An opposition group called Keep Portland Affordable—associated with the Portland Business Alliance, the city’s chamber of commerce—is “committed to spending the resources necessary” to defeat the measure at the ballot box, the group’s spokesman, Rick Thomas, previously told Bloomberg Tax. A July 30 check of the Secretary of State’s website shows the group received a $40,000 contribution from a campaign committee formed in 2016 that successfully defeated a statewide gross-receipts tax initiative. That committee’s leading donors include Albertsons Cos. Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp., the Kroger Co., Walmart Inc., and Comcast Corp.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Shukovsky in Seattle at pshukovsky@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ryan C. Tuck at rtuck@bloombergtax.com

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