Report: Clean Energy Fund could cost up to $79M

Report: Clean Energy Fund could cost up to $79M

An economists' report says an ambiguous definition of 'retail' in the measure could pull in more than twice as much cash as supporters have claimed.

What do you consider "retail"?

The definition of the word looks to be one of the biggest sticking points between the no and yes campaigns on the Portland-wide Ballot Measure 26-201 to create a "Clean Energy Fund."

The fund would be fueled by a 1 percent surcharge on large retailers in the city of Portland — those with more than $1 billion in national sales and more than $500,000 within city limits. Voters will get to decide on it before 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 6.

While yes campaigners have said the tax would bring in "more than $30 million" for clean energy jobs programs and energy-saving retrofits, an ECONorthwest study says the tax could actually cost between $43.1 million and $79 million. The July study was released Monday, Oct. 9, by the no campaign.

"The large estimated range is primarily a function of ambiguous wording in the Initiative itself and uncertainty over how the Initiative would be implemented by the City of Portland if it were to be passed," reads the report paid for by Grow Oregon, a supporter of the no campaign. The report by the respected Portland-based economic research group used two definitions of retail to decide how the tax could be applied. The broader definition, based on feedback from accountants and tax preparers, included business-to-business activity, such as legal services, freight fees and telecommunications.

But the yes campaign, Yes for Portland Clean Energy Fund, called the report a red herring.

However, Andrew Hoan, the Portland Business Alliance's new president, blasted the measure for being a regressive double tax that would make everyone — especially the poor — pay twice for programs already run by the Energy Trust of Oregon.

Hoan called for a "serious conversation on revenue" to augment the Energy Trust of Oregon instead of a new gross receipts tax.

"Why ask those who can least afford it to pay for it?" he asked.

Hoan said the proponents of the measure should have paid for their own study of the measure's effects before putting it on the ballot. According to filings with the Oregon Secretary of State, ECONorthwest has received about $25,000 so far from the no campaign, though it's unclear how much the study cost.

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