New transit tax begins in July

Beginning July 1, Oregonians will notice a new deduction from their paychecks to generate revenue for public transportation.

PORTLAND — Oregonians may notice a new .001 percent deduction on their pay stubs beginning July 1 that will largely go toward funding public transportation around the state.

The new transit tax takes $1 from every $1,000 of earnings. The tax is projected to generate nearly $194.6 million in the first two years. About 90 percent of the revenue will go toward mass transit districts, transportation districts or counties without either mass transit or a transportation district and to federally-recognized tribes based on an allocation formula. Five percent goes to public transportation providers based on a competitive grant process.

The money can be used for transit services, with the exception of light rail capital improvements. However, revenue can be used to fund a low-income light rail fare program.

The tax is part of a $5.3 billion transportation package the state Legislature approved in 2017. Lawmakers excluded light rail construction from permissible uses for the revenue to avoid political opposition to the legislation.

Four percent is dedicated to grants to public transportation providers to improve transit between two or more communities, and the other 1 percent funds a statewide public transportation technical resource center to assist public transportation providers in rural areas.

The Oregon Transportation Commission will decide on project funding based on priorities such as improving transit to low-income households, procurement of low- or no-emission buses, reducing gaps in services, providing student transit services for grades 9-12 and other basic factors such as responsible use of public funds, said Karyn Criswell, project manager of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Fund Implementation.

The Capital Bureau is a collaboration between EO Media Group and Pamplin Media Group.

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