by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Voters in Portland soundly rejected a proposal on Tuesday that would have levied a new tax on county residents to pay for free lawyers for tenants evicted by their landlords.
The ballot measure, supported by dozens of tenants rights and housing groups, would have created a 0.75 percent capital gains tax to provide people facing eviction with lawyers.
About 82 percent of voters rejected the measure.
Supporters of the tax said it would help to combat rampant homelessness in the far-left city, and it was intended to target the wealthy. But the proposed tax on the profit made from the sale of real estate, stocks and bonds, businesses, and art, did not exempt middle-class or low-income residents, and likely would have affected seniors, families, and small-business owners.
The Portland Business Alliance called it “one of the most disastrous proposals ever put before Multnomah County voters.”
“Capital gains aren’t just for rich people,” the alliance said in opposition to the proposed tax, which could have been increased at any time with no limit. “If it were to pass it would establish the first local capital gains tax in America, with an astonishing half of the generated tax dollars going simply to collecting it. It would make Multnomah County clearly the highest taxing jurisdiction in the nation.”
The ballot measure was opposed by real estate and business groups, as well as the entire Portland city council, four county commissioners, the county chair, the Metro Council president, and Portland mayor Ted Wheeler. They were opposed to new levying the new capital gains tax, and they argued that the initiative could be funded through other means, including state money aimed at combatting homelessness.
The defeat of the tax comes a week after Wheeler, a Democrat, called for a one-year freeze on nearly all planned or proposed increases in regional taxes, fees, and utility rates.