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Plan To Fund Clean Energy With Portland Business Tax Likely For Ballot

<p>Peter Kernan of Enhabit checks the efficiency of a heat pump system.</p>

Cassandra Profita/OPB


Peter Kernan of Enhabit checks the efficiency of a heat pump system.

Backers of an initiative to fund clean energy projects in Portland with a new business tax say they have gathered enough signatures to put it on the ballot in November.

The would pay for programs like home weatherization, energy efficiency upgrades and job training in the renewable energy and energy efficiency fields. Many of the programs would be earmarked for low-income Portlanders and communities of color.

Supporters say the fund will help Portland reach the goal of transitioning 100 percent to renewable energy by 2050, a plan adopted by Mayor Ted Wheeler and the City Council in 2017.

The coalition backing the measure announced Thursday it has gathered more than 60,000 signatures for the local initiative, well beyond the 35,000 needed to qualify for the ballot.

“We are extremely confident and extremely happy that we will definitely cross the Portland voter signature threshold to qualify for this November ballot,” said Maria Hernandez-Segoviano, with the environmental justice group OPAL, part of the coalition behind the measure.

If passed, the initiative will raise an estimated $30 million a year, according to its supporters, from a 1 percent tax on businesses with half a million dollars or more of sales in Portland, not counting groceries or medicine.

A PAC called Keep Portland Affordable is representing business interests opposed to the measure. 

"We all agree that more must be done to address climate change, but making it harder to live here isn’t the right answer,” said Rick Thomas, a spokesman for the PAC. He said the initiative amounts to a sales tax that will be passed on to consumers and will lead to higher prices.

Copyright 2020 EarthFix. To see more, visit .

Amelia Templeton is a multimedia reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting, covering Portland city hall, justice and local news. She was previously a reporter for EarthFix, an award-winning public media project covering the environment in the Northwest.