A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

On July’s agenda: Albany gas tax

Written June 23rd, 2016 by Hasso Hering
Twelfth Avenue is one of the streets where the pavement has been breaking up.

Twelfth Avenue is one of the streets where the pavement has been breaking up.

Whether Albany should ask voters to enact a local gas tax to pay for street repairs is a question that has been hanging around for a while. And now, for the first time in years, the city council will take it up next month.

On Wednesday, Mayor Sharon Konopa asked the city staff to prepare estimates of what a local gas tax would yield in revenue, and to present the information to the council at the work session scheduled for July 11. She  also asked for a priority list of streets where the added revenue would make repairs possible.

As it happens, the city staff has already done some rough estimates. Based on the experience of other cities with local fuel taxes, Albany could expect to take in about a $1 million a year from a 5-cent tax, or about $750,000 from a 3-cent tax. Konopa has been talking in terms of a 5-cent tax, which voters would be asked to approve in the Nov. 8 general election. A decision to place it on the ballot would come in August.

In the 2016-17 budget year, which starts July 1, Albany expects to receive about $2.9 million as its share of the state fuel tax of 30 cents a gallon. City officials say that amount is not nearly enough to take care of the many older residential streets where the pavement is in bad shape.

Konopa has been arguing that now, while gas prices are still relatively low compared to a few years ago, is the time to win approval of a small local tax. For most people, the addition of a few cents would hardly be noticeable amid the routine fluctuations in the price per gallon over time, or in the spread of prices among different stations.

Two Oregon counties, Multnomah and Washington, have local gas taxes, and so do 15 cities. The biggest is Eugene, with a 5-cent tax. In the May primary, Portland voters approved a four-year program calling for a 10-cent local gas tax. (hh)

7 responses to “On July’s agenda: Albany gas tax”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    CARA recently decided to budget $7,879,000 for “streetscape” improvements. CARA didn’t even attempt to estimate a tax increment (think of this as a project’s ROI) because there isn’t any.

    So, I wonder. Clearly CARA is willing to spend large sums on projects with zero tax increment, why not spend the $7,879,000 on the actual streets instead of their ‘scape’ (visual effect)? Which is a higher priority?

  2. Bob Woods says:

    One thing that folks need to consider is how long they are willing to wait to realize the improvements in their streets.

    The Mayor and Council have to balance the need against what they guess people are willing to pay. The current condition of streets should tell everyone that what you have been willing to pay in the past is the direct result of what you see today.

    The backlog is really significant. All things being equal, the more you are willing to chip in, the faster the improvements will occur. In addition, since a significant component of the cost in fixing streets is the current coat of oil (think asphalt). It’s cheap now, which means you can get slightly more done for a given level of expenditures.

    We all know that over time oil cost is likely to increase again, so what DOESN’T get done when oil is cheap, will be harder to get done when it is more expensive.

    And regardless of what the anti-tax right wing fanatics scream about taxes, you get what you pay for.

    • Al Nyman says:

      What the right wing fanatics get in Oregon for their gas taxes is light rail in Portland which is a monumental failure not acknowledged by the bureaucrats and 5000 give or take employees at ODOT who do not build roads (name me a road they have built Bob and be sure to include the Highway 20 fiasco in Eddyville) and suck up much more than 50% of the transportation budget. Perchance you were previously a PERS employee and now have a fat pension which we vast right wingers have to pay taxes to support.

      • Bob Woods says:

        Al, you should quit making stuff up. I know that the right wing just HATES facts, but saying your gas tax is sent to Portland to pay for transit is a whopper for the ages. If you ever took the time to learn about ODOT and the gas tax you would know how it works and where the money comes from.

        ODOT’s 2015-17 budget has revenue of $4.644 billion dollars. Of that Gas Tax is $1.087 billion or 23.4%. So it provides less than a quarter of the total ODOT revenue. The Federal government sends in another $858 billion or 18.4%.

        The state gas tax is 30 cents. 60% of that, or 18 cents goes to the state; 24%, or 7.2 cents, goes to the county; and 16%, or 4.8 cents, goes to the city.

        Do Multnomah and Washington counties, along with Portland, Beaverton and all those other cities up there, get a large amount? Hell yes. Because that’s where people live and where the most gas is sold! It’s proportional, right down to Albany.

        As far as the state ODOT money going to transit operations, the total Transit budget of $96 million (out of the total $4 billion) is funded by 64% Federal, 10% other and 26% comes from some of that 18 cents that the state keeps. And that includes all transit operations, including Albany.

        Now let’s look at Tri-Met the “Portland” transit agency that you love to hate. Where do they get their annual money?

        For 2016-17 the Tri-Met budget has $564,121,509 of operational resources. And here is where that money comes from:

        $138,844,614 comes from passenger fares, advertising and service contract revenues (24.6%);

        $338,617,043 comes from Business Payroll and Self-Employment Taxes from employers in their service area (60%)

        $79,235,150 comes from Federal funded programs (14.2%)

        $4,897,655 comes from miscellaneous and interest (0.8%)

        $1,354,292 comes from state grants (0.2%)

        $1,172,755 comes from local government grants (0.2%)

        So when you say “What the right wing fanatics get in Oregon for their gas taxes is light rail in Portland ” you’re lying Al, pure and simple. What you are paying into “Portland” is infinitesimally small.

        And by the way my “fat pension” as you put it, is a public record and amounts to $1,963.49 a month after tax withholding, not much different than the $1,539 I get from Social Security after tax withholding. And I worked for it, it isn’t a gift.

        • Bob Woods says:

          Sorry I said 858 Billion from the feds in paragraph 2 it’s 858 MILLION.

          • hj.anony1 says:

            Billion…million. Who cares at either point. Ha!

            Quote of the HH blog comments section: “Hell yes. Because that’s where people live and where the most gas is sold! It’s proportional, right down to Albany.” True statement.

            I offer one of my own. The Albany/Corvallis area is outgrowing it’s own transportation infrastructure. At some times of the day, it has passed that stage.

  3. Rhea Graham says:

    VOTE NO! The recreational Cannabis users in this city want to buy Cannabis in legitimate stores and pay tax on it and the current mayor and half the council will not accept that … Pot taxes for pot holes… We can fill them!


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