Multnomah looks at tolls, fees and doubling property taxes

By Robert Canfield,
Troutdale City Councilor

Canfield’s Blog

For several current and incoming Multnomah County Commissioners, the “big idea” to solve the County’s $25 million deficit doesn’t seem to include living within the County’s reduced revenues. One incoming County Commissioner even said it didn’t matter how much they cut, they would never be able to make expenses match revenues. In today’s financial crisis, many East Multnomah County residents have no choice but to live within their means. The option of a “bailout” isn’t an option. We’re cutting back on expenses. We’re renting DVD’s instead of going out to the movies. We’re eating meals at home instead of going out to restaurants. The shelves of the region’s food banks are emptying because many families can’t even afford to buy food. For most East County residents, the “big idea” is to live within our means.

If you think you’re having a hard time feeding your family now, how would you like your property tax bill to double or triple next year? That’s what some Multnomah County Commissioners have said they’d like to do. They want to raise your property taxes by eliminating Oregon’s property tax limitation laws

In the Oregonian’s December 4, 2008 Multnomah County Weekly insert, here’s what some of the current and incoming Multnomah County Commissioners had to say about how they’d like to solve the County’s budget woes:

Ted Wheeler:
“We shouldn’t shy away from looking for alternative sources of revenue where appropriate.”
(He lists changing the state’s property tax limitations, using levies to fund services, and creating other fees such as document recording fees and bridge tolls.)

Jeff Cogen:
“He recommends carefully examining current spending, advocating that the state maintain human services funding, looking at ways to increase tax revenues.”

Deborah Kafoury:
“The No. 1 issue is the instability of our budget. … The incoming revenues aren’t going to match expenses no matter how much you cut every year; there’s no end in sight.”

Judy Shiprack:
“It’s revenue. … The immediate problem is going to be living within our means.”
(She recommends looking at ways to increase tax revenue by removing limitations on property taxes or local option taxes.)

I realize the Multnomah County Commission provides many essential social and public services. The County Commission is faced with some tough choices. But wouldn’t you like to see the County Commission make a better effort to find more cuts before they talk about doubling or tripling your property tax bill?

In an April 2008 letter to County employees, County Chair Wheeler acknowledged the central problem- the County has failed to live within its means. In the letter, Wheeler stated,

“In Oregon we are already experiencing impacts of the downturn in the national economy. In Multnomah County government those impacts compound the problems created when we failed to cut the budget to match the decline in revenue from the expiration of the Itax.”

Wheeler knows what needs to be done. He needs to cut the budget to match the decline in County revenues. Will the new County Commission have the political courage to do the right thing and cut their budget to match existing revenues instead of trying to double or triple your property tax bill?

If you want your property tax bill to double in size, by all means, help out the County Commission and call your local legislator. Let them know it’s ok with you. However, if you don’t want your property tax bill to double or triple, contact your local legislator, Multnomah County Chair Wheeler or your own Multnomah County Commissioner and tell them you expect them to live within their means like the rest of us.

-Robert Canfield is a Troutdale, Oregon City Councilor.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to LinkedIn Post to Reddit

Posted by at 05:55 | Posted in Measure 37 | 28 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Sagano

    When I see quotes like this, it sounds like wolves deciding which sheep to eat first.

    Did I mention the wolves are dysfunctional compulsive eaters who have taken permanent residency on the farm itself?

  • Big K

    Kafourey’s comment about no matter how much you cut you can’t get there. Well of course you can. It is just an excuse to say we can’t cut a dime to save nickel.

  • Jerry

    Property taxes must be raised in order to preserve the government services we all depend on so much.
    Maybe 3 times would be better?

    • sybella

      Can you imagine how happy dean will be if they do that? I’d love to be a mouse in a corner when he gets his bill.

  • JesseO

    So, which county services would you like cut, Mr. Canfield? Health care? Animal control? Vector control? Libraries? Transportation?

    If we cut libraries, people who can’t afford to buy books or rent movies will suffer. If we cut transportation, our car maintenance costs will go up.

    Leadership is not telling people what not to do. It’s offering compelling suggestions on what to do.

    • Jerry

      The cuts you mentioned would be fine.

  • Gienie

    County Commissioners all over the state are trying to make up for the lost revenue trickling down from the state level. The trickle down effect will continue until city’s/county’s and the state start cutting government spending altogether.

    You can’t increase revenue with a solution that is unstable. Higher taxes have proven to be harmful to struggling families.

    The only real solution is to cut cut cut… and like you said Robert..

    Live with in our means!

  • Tim

    Cut. A. Tree.

    • Gienie

      Yeah Tim…

      Cut. Cut. Cut. A. Tree.

      • Sagano

        A Christmas Tree

  • Anonymous


    Let’s get to it for once.
    What difference would it make to any of you libs if another list of cuts is provided? You’ll immediately disregard it.

    For demonsrtation purposes I’ll offer a couple easy cuts.

    Jackson County’s 21 libraries are now open and operating on half the cost of the public employee run system that had closed because of lack of funding.
    Every liberal like you down there opposed this change and if they had their way the county libraries would still be closed.

    Now let’s watch JesseO repeat the exact same rhetoric they used in their oppostion.

    Another easy cut is at the PDC which borrows millions every year to subsidize a corrupted Urban Renewal system and pay their own agency bills. Then skims away county property taxes to pay their mounting debt.
    You know the PDC and Urban Renewal?
    It’s that topic never discussed over at BlueOregon.

    • JessseO

      I actually like the idea of using private workers for some services….

      And I’m thrilled the League of Women Voters is taking on the Pearl District Urban Renewal tax breaks.

      These aren’t easy cuts, but they’re cuts I’d be willing to make.

      Other ideas?

  • Kathryn Hickok

    Living within our means is a valuable lesson for everyone to learn. At some point we need to accept reality to have a healthy society and an accountable government.

    Economist Don Boudreaux wrote not too long ago on the issues of economic signals and pricing: “Because, as Thomas Sowell reminds us, reality is not optional, we ought to deal with it as best as we can. And how best to deal with this unfortunate reality? To begin, never pretend that reality is other than what it is. Face reality squarely, fully, and soberly.”

    It’s good advice.

  • jim karlock

    There is well over $50 MILLION a year in COLLECTED property taxes that goes straight to the PDC. Every year.

    Its time to shut them down and let that money go to basic services.

    Pay the bonds with a special levy on the new construction in the UR areas – they are the ones getting the benefit from that $75 million taken from schools, police, fire and the needy. Let them start paying.



    • Sagano

      Karlock flies in to the rescue again.

      • Big K

        PDC like a permanent bailout organization

      • jim karlock

        Ohhh, looks like you may be addicted to tax abatements. Do you happen to have a personal stake in them?

        Work for a developer? Work for a government agency? Work for someone (or you personally) who contracts to the government?


  • davidg

    Suggestions for where to cut?

    Salaries and employee benefits typically make up 80% or more of the annual budgets of most government agencies. If you need big savings, you need to look at where you do your big spending. Government tax-and-spend advocates typically say that the number of employees, as well as their salary and benefit levels, are all “off limits” when it comes to looking for savings.

    You can never realize big savings if you don’t address where you do your big spending. In bad economic times like these, employees will accept salary and benefit cuts and still be able to appreciate that they have a job.

    How much would a 10% salary cut save?

    How much would closing down PERS and converting to 401k’s save?

    How much would be saved by limiting medical and dental benefits to what typical private employers in the area provide?

    Yes, even without looking at employee reduction or pencil restriction, there are lots of places to look for spending cuts. But if you don’t look in the obvious places, you won’t find what you need to see.

    • Gienie

      How about we cut positions in the commission. Instead of 5 commissioners… lets just have 2 or 3???

      • dean

        Genie…we had 3 commisioners in Clackamas County, and the citizens recently voted pretty strongly to increase the number to 5. Yes, you can save a few cents on the surface by having fewer paid elected officials, but its not like you get something for nothing. Fewer commissioners means more work delegated out to paid staff, and the staff often get paid more than the commisioners. Plus, when you only have 3, 2 of them can’t meet over a cup of coffee without violating our public meetings law.

        • Gienie

          Those county employees… Dean….could use a little work load! It must be nice sitting on a mountain of stability while the little guys down below struggle to make ends meet.

          Sorta reminds me of the story of Moses and the Israelites in Egypt… You know

          Let me people go!!

          Here in Springfield, the city is debating to raise the fuel tax again, at the same time they are looking at other avenues like implementing a user fee and so forth because the street repair fund is dissolving.

          Either way you look at it, if we have to go without “critical services” like white bird clinic, and planned parenthood and other “government funded agencies” for a while… then so be it!

          Last week my husband was shorted a few hours in his paycheck… we decided it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to go out on our already scheduled date because the cost was just a bit tooo much.

          People have to make sacrifices. Government agencies should be no acception!

          I find it disgusting how entitled people think they are. Life is hard, move on!

          • Bo

            If the commissioners were reduced it would not reduce the moeny required. I couldn not forsee that at all.

  • Anonymous


    Of course many libs “actually like the idea of using private workers for some services”.

    But only as a generic idea.
    When it comes down to implementation it’s never mind.

    And they forcefully oppose and fight it.

    Then it’s back to the claim thewre are not cuts to be made and we’ve already made them all.

    Take Gov Barbara Roberts. “We’ve made the cuts now it’s time to fund services”.
    Yeah Sure Barbara.

    Multnomah County is not going to make any changes. They can’t even lobby the legislature for the Sellwood bridge while at the same time supporting the legislatures forking over $250 million for light rail and a new light rail bridge.
    The county has sat quiet or supported every urban renewal scheme, every planning and transit scheme and every crazy boondoggle around.

    You may be thrilled at the League of Women Voters taking on the Pearl District Urban Renewal but their stance and opposition is narrowly defined and token in nature.

    The library and other services could and should be run as they are in Jackson County at half the cost.
    No, these aren’t easy cuts, because the libs and unions won’t allow it. You may be willing to make them but that doesn;t mean squat.

    Look at what Chaulkboard tried to do. Where are they now? Silenced by the OEA and others.

    The BIG LOOK task force? Same scenario.

    Right now you liberals friends are standing in the way of new energy, new jobs and new revenue for the Oregon economy and public services. And no tax stimulous is needed.

    The LNG terminal and pipeline would add many millions and of jobs. New forest /logging plans are being blocked and more mills close.

    M49 claims are being blocked by bureacrats and will soon get more delays with the Governors budget.
    4800 claims for 1 to 3 houses sit waiting for the “fast track process” that now may take two or more years.
    Those claims represent 8000 to 9000 houses scattered across the state that the landowners want to build.
    1000s of jobs from planners to plummers to appraisers and aplliance dealers desperately need those projects.
    No stimulous or tax subsidies are needed.
    Millions in fees and tax revenue would be generated as well.

    YOU and yours are blocking them.
    It goes on and on and on.

    Reasonable, common sense changes could easily be made.

    But your left objects and obstructs with perpetual campaigns.
    No they want to keep union control of everything and fight the boogeyman human global warming that isn’t even happening.

    Your friends have fallen off the deep end while pulling all things off the edge.

    • dean

      Anonymous personage says…”The LNG terminal and pipeline would add many millions and of jobs.”

      According the Bureau of Labor Statistics Oregon had a total of 1.827 million jobs as of October. If that pipeline added millions of new jobs here that would be quite some feat.

      According to theTax Foundation, state and local taxes per capita have increased by a factor of 4.4 (constant dollars) since 1977, while income has increased by a factor of 5.6. In other words, proportionaly our taxes have DECREASED over the past 30 years. We used to rank 10th in total state and local tax burden and now rank 26th.

      In other words…our taxes have been going DOWN, not UP. Maybe it is time for them to go up a bit unless we want to see a continued erosion of services. You can’t get something for nothing folks.

  • Bob Clark

    How horrible. Property taxes went up by 10 percent last year, and they’ll go up faster than inflation next year because Portlanders passed all the property tax measures on this last November’s ballot. Doubling my property taxes would be the last straw. I’d would have very little choice but to sell and move out of the county. The county’s property taxes are already some of the highest in the state. I can’t imagine what a person on a fixed income could do but sell and get out. Your talking about hitting such people with $3k or more in new costs per year.

    • jim karlock

      It may be time for another, tighter, property tax limitation initiative.

      Or maybe all property tax collected actually goes to basic services.


    • jim karlock

      It may be time for another, tighter, property tax limitation initiative.

      Or maybe all property tax collected actually goes to basic services.

      Or, require all property tax revenue recipients to agree before granting tax exemptions and UR district creation.


  • Anonymous

    dean, that was a typo obviously.

    “The LNG terminal and pipeline would add many millions in revenue and many jobs to our economy.

    Your sorry excuse for an Oregonian wouls rather raise taxes than let jobs and revenue generating industries develope.

    Government services have been on a wild mission creep and cost rising ride.
    Your stupid “You can’t get something for nothing folks” is one of the all time lamest bromides used by the government class.

    Never mind what we don’t get for the very large something we do pay.

    In taxes and FEES.

    dean, you’re worse than worthless in a discussion.

Stay Tuned...

Stay up to date with the latest political news and commentary from Oregon Catalyst through daily email updates:

Prefer another subscription option? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, become a fan on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Twitter Facebook

No Thanks (close this box)