Higher taxes, fees under Oregon transportation funding proposal

It's early draft, but prompting reaction

Transportation funding plan unveiled

BEND, Ore. - An $8.2 billion transportation funding package has been put before Oregon lawmakers, in early draft form.

If passed, the 10-year transportation plan would go toward easing congestion, improving local roads, bridges and public transportation around the state.

But, where is the money coming from?

The funding draft says the state gas tax would jump by 6 cents next year and another 2 cents every other year through 2026.

Also, title and registration fees would increase by $20 in 2018.

A first-ever statewide employee payroll tax of .1 percent would be implemented next year, as well as a 1 percent tax on new cars and 5 percent tax on new bicycles. 

Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, said he's concerned with all the added taxing,

"The Republican caucus, we realize we need a transportation package, and we've been working hard to come up with a solution." he said. "It's just hard to put a tax burden on the people of Oregon. Even though we're employing more people, we're not employing enough to make a difference. But we need a transportation package."

In the report, a large portion of the money would go toward clearing up traffic on key highways, mostly in the Portland area, where tolls have been proposed. 

But also in Bend, explained Bend MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) Manager Tyler Deke.

"Our focus is on North U.S. (Highway) 97 in Bend, improvements at the U.S. 97-Empire (Avenue) interchange, as well as improvements at the Robal Road area on 97."

Highway 97 is important because it plays a key role in earthquake preparedness, Deke explained: "U.S. 97 is our priority, because ... the seismic issues in the future -- it would be the new I-5, if there was a seismic event over in the Valley or off the coast."

Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, said he's concerned that Central Oregon won't see enough of the money, and that too much of it will be focused on Portland-area projects.

State lawmakers will go over the proposal again Wednesday.  Once the bill is officially drafted they will hold meetings around the state, so the public can weigh in.  They hope to have a full vote by June.

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