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Oregon House Passes Major Transportation Bill Package

Tue August 01, 2017 - West Edition #16
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The Oregon House passed a transportation bill that now heads to the Oregon Senate.
(Daily Emerald/Scott Greenstone photo)
The Oregon House passed a transportation bill that now heads to the Oregon Senate. (Daily Emerald/Scott Greenstone photo)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) The Oregon House passed a transportation bill with new taxes and fees that would raise $3.8 billion over seven years for repairs to the state's roads and bridges.

House Bill 2017 now heads to the Oregon Senate, where it's expected to pass, The Register Guard reported.

The bill received bipartisan support after a convoluted path that included strong disagreements among lawmakers.

Gov. Kate Brown and legislative leaders had to step in to prevent a repeat of the 2015 session, when a different transportation deal unraveled.

The package had to be scaled back in size and Democrats had to agree to GOP-endorsed changes to Oregon's fuels standard to get it to the finish line.

The tax hikes in the package include: a 10-cent increase in the state gas tax over the next seven years; a $13 increase in vehicle title and registration fees in 2018; a new statewide payroll tax of .1 percent paid by employees to fund transit districts; a new .05 percent tax on the sale of new cars, motorhomes, motorbike and snowmobiles; and a new $15 surcharge on the sales of adult bikes over $200.

The tax and fee increases would provide the Oregon Department of Transportation about $1.25 billion in new money over the next seven years for maintenance work. The increases also would mean a windfall for local governments.

The new payroll tax would raise an estimated $115 million a year at the start and would be split among the state's transit districts.

The measure also takes first steps toward establishing non-bridge tolls on Interstate 5 and 205 in the Portland area to pay for widening projects.

And it creates a $12 million-a-year rebate program for residents who buy new electric or hybrid cars.

Rep. John Lively, a Springfield Democrat, said the transit funding would help add bus lines and increase bus frequency.

“Those increased services will help the elderly and all the others who rely on transit in our state,” he said.

Republican Rep. Julie Parrish of West Linn was the only lawmaker to speak against the bill during floor debate. She objected to the potential tolls in the Portland area and rebate program for people who buy electric and hybrid cars.

Rep. Greg Smith, a Heppner Republican, said the transportation vote should be “a day of elation and celebration.”

“I'm a firm believer that public sector investment leads to private sector investment,” he said. “It's going to help build the economy of the state of Oregon.”

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