Salem Payroll Tax Referendum Qualifies for Ballot

Voters will decide fate of controversial tax in Nov. 2023
By Let Salem Vote,

A referendum of Salem’s newly adopted employee payroll tax has qualified for the November 2023 ballot, the Marion County Clerk’s Office determined today. As of Friday afternoon, elections workers have verified more than 4,000 signatures submitted by Refer the Tax on Salem Workers petitioners, exceeding the 3,986 valid signatures needed to qualify the referendum for the ballot. Petitioners submitted nearly 13,000 prior to the August 9 deadline.

“Salem residents have left no doubt that they want to vote on this tax,” said Angela Wilhelms, president and CEO of Oregon Business & Industry, which spearheaded the referendum effort. “People were eager to sign the petition, and we submitted more than three times the number needed to place the tax on the ballot.”

Salem City Council adopted the nearly 1% tax on workers in July despite testimony from dozens of people concerned about its impacts on employees and employers. For employees, this tax will exacerbate the effects of steadily rising inflation and provide an incentive to seek work outside of Salem. The tax will cost a city worker earning the average wage of $62,000 roughly $500 per year. For employers, and especially for employers with hybrid workforces, the tax will create a significant compliance burden, as it applies only to work performed within the city of Salem.

“I want to thank the organizations that contributed to this effort and staff with the city of Salem and county clerk’s office who helped us navigate this process,” said Preston Mann, OBI’s director of political affairs and the referendum’s chief petitioner. “Salem residents will now have a chance to vote on a controversial tax that will affect thousands of workers and employers.”