The City of Portland Should Scrap Confusing Arts Tax and Wait for Court Opinion

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Arts tax logoThink of Portland’s Arts Tax as a brand new house!  The idea of housing people is nice. The house is bright and shiny. Looks cool.

And there are no permits. In the eyes of the law this construction is wholly illegal, against basic code. 

If you’re the City of Portland and this is the $35 a head Arts Tax passed last November, you ignore the legalities and keep trying to make the house look pretty. The City knows it is unpermitted –because the state constitution straight-up outlaws these taxes– but the City tries to ‘fix it’ anyway.

The City– metaphorically speaking (for those of you who live on Hawthorne or write for politi’fact’) –tears down the walls to expose the plumbing declares the thing fixed. Then it goes back in and tinkers with the framing and declares the thing fixed. Electrical? Rinse and repeat. The Mayor considers himself clever for ‘fixing’ the problem. 


See, the City enthuses with each ad hoc change made to dress up the Arts Tax’s illegality, we’re so clever because we exempted people on a fixed income (the taxing of whom is ALSO unconstitutional)! See, we’re exempting under 18’s because we know our economy sucks and they can’t find more than a part-time barrista job or “volunteering” for the Bus Project! See, we’re offering ‘rebates’ to people who are too poor to pay! See, we’re giving government union workers (PERS recipients) a pass on paying the tax! See, we’re giving retirees a break from the tax! 


There may be more waivers for cronies and others for the Arts Tax than Obama gave for ObamaCare! Arts tax racc public art

Voters passed this tax last November in hopes of supporting “the children” with arts programs. A smaller portion of the  $35/head tax goes to “the children” and the rest will go to the Regional Arts Commission to dole out to its favorite Zoo Bomber statue, street car art, or maybe even to the Naked Bike Ride expose at the Portland Art Museum. 

The City of Portland believes it has the standing to constantly change the structure of this tax. If it can do that it can scrap it and wait for a decision from the Oregon courts where it’s constitutionality is being litigated. It’s a rickety mess.

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