politics

Metro Ballot Measure To Support Homeless Services Polling Positively

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
April 15, 2020 6:28 p.m.

The measure slated for the May ballot that’s looking to raise about $250 million annually for homeless services in the Portland metro area is polling strongly among voters, according to data released Wednesday by HereTogether Oregon — a coalition in support of the measure.

The measure, referred to the ballot by Metro — the regionally elected government for Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties — would enact a 1% marginal income tax for the region’s wealthiest residents, those making more than $125,000 annually or couples making more than $200,000, and a 1% business tax on the profits of businesses whose gross receipts are more than $5 million.

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“The fundamentals of public support for this measure to fund supportive housing services for the homeless population remains very strong,” Mike Bocian, a pollster with GBAO strategies, said Wednesday.

Bocian said GBAO polled 600 likely May voters in the metro area from April 6 to 9. Of the people polled, 57% said they’d vote “yes” on the measure if the election were held now, 39% said “no” and 4% were undecided.

The polling had a 4.0 margin of error and people who were polled were contacted by live dialers on their landlines and cell phones, Bocian said.

All three counties in the metro area polled over 50% in approval, Bocian said.

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Much of those results fell across party lines with 75% of Democrats in support of the measure, 50% of Independents in support and 81% of Republicans in opposition.

Kevin Looper, a political consultant hired by HereTogether Oregon, said although the coronavirus pandemic has obviously caused economic uncertainty in the region, it’s also made people more aware of the area’s homeless population.

“Part of the strength of these numbers that we’re seeing, with us testing up around 57% out of the gates, is because going into this [pandemic], this was the number one problem,” Looper said. “And people know that as they have been sheltered in place, there are way too many people out there who have no shelter at all.”

Looper said it’s a fair assumption that the measure will not bring in $250 million annually in the first biennium, due to financial impacts from the coronavirus.

“It is a 10-year period,” Looper said of the measure. “So, we do expect that the economy will rebound, and it will still generate on the whole the kinds of resources we’re talking about … but, no one is yet predicting what the economic hit will be to those particular audiences that would be taxed here.”

Regardless, Looper said, HereTogether is glad it did not go the route of a more broadly affecting tax, such as a payroll tax.

“We are going forward in a way that will certainly not contribute to the economic pressures because we are talking about the folks who are relatively in a better position,” Looper said.

Although there has been public opposition to the measure from the Alliance for An Affordable Metro, Looper said the biggest challenge the measure will face is voter turnout.

“As well look at this election, if we had the full electorate we expected when we had the presidential race still going on, and before coronavirus, there’s no doubt we would win this thing,” Looper said. “The question now is who votes in this context?”

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