Portland Needs More Than a Small Tax Break

By Sam Herrin

Two weeks ago, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced plans to give a 2.6% tax break to businesses threatening to leave Portland. This is a win for businesses and could encourage some to stay. But it may be too little, too late.

Even after the worst of the pandemic, hundreds of businesses moved their headquarters out of Portland. And it’s not just businesses; people are fleeing, too. In 2022, Portland had a net loss of 8,000 people.

Mayor Wheeler finally learned one basic principle: High taxes discourage economic activity.

According to a study from ECONorthwest, Portland has the second highest marginal tax rate in the U.S. Only New York City is higher. Another study by Ernst & Young shows that Portland business taxes have increased by 32% since 2019.

Removing a 2.6% business tax is a good start, but Portland is far from being “business friendly.” In order for Portland (and more generally, Oregon) to attract more businesses, a substantial decrease in personal and business taxes is necessary.

Sam Herrin is a Research Associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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