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Commissioner Steve Novick

Official Website for Commissioner Steve Novick

Phone: 503-823-4682

fax: 503-823-4019

1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204

Council Holds Work Session on How to Make Heaviest Trucks Pay Fair Share

As we seek adequate funding for street repair and traffic safety, one question we need to address is, “how do we make sure that heavy trucks pay their fair share?” The City Council will hear ideas on how to answer that question in a work session this Thursday, April 7th at 2:00 p.m.

When I proposed that we send a gas tax to the voters (as we now have), I was warned that the heavy trucks that are engaged in interstate travel could avoid the tax by simply skipping the only truck stop in Portland and filling up somewhere else. So I decided that we should have a separate tax or fee that applies the heavy trucks have to pay – a tax that they cannot avoid simply by skipping a truck stop.  The State actually does the same thing: trucks over 26,000 pounds do not pay state fuel taxes, but pay a “weight-mile” tax instead.

We could try to have a local “weight-mile” tax, but the City of Eugene studied that issue extensively some years ago, and concluded it would very difficult to administer. So we are considering other options, which will be described in the work session.

One option would be to apply what is called a “load fee” to diesel fuel when it is removed from the huge fuel tanks on the Willamette River. The fuel from those tanks is distributed throughout the region, so any truck that buys fuel in the region would wind up paying the fee.

Another option would be to have a surcharge on the City’s business income tax that would apply only to businesses, registered to do business in Portland, that have heavy trucks that pay the weight-mile tax.

The Thursday work session will include descriptions of both of these options, plus a presentation from ECONorthwest on how to determine what the trucks’ “fair share” really is.

Make no mistake: We will make sure the heavy trucks pay their fair share. The only question is what methodology we will use.