In November 2018, the city of Portland voted to pass a ballot initiative called the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund (PCEF) that is basically Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s failed “Green New Deal” in a smaller, more localized package. In a few months, the city will begin finally investing the money they received.
The gross receipts tax measure reportedly aims to have businesses pay a 1 percent tax on all revenue that they generate while operating in the city. Proponents of the legislation say it could create as much as $60M that would be used to help the city pay for some of the green initiatives that they have sought to implement.
One of the goals is to invest in jobs and energy-efficient housing for low-income and minority communities. Some of the proposed uses for the revenue include “provid[ing] members of underserved communities with valuable skills while insulating, caulking and tweaking inefficient heating and cooling systems and installing rooftop solar panels at the homes of low-income Portlanders,” according to Willamette Week.
The legislation “transfers wealth from big corporations such as Wal-Mart to low-income Portlanders of color,” which supporters say is a long-overdue change in “a city with a history of institutionalized racism.”
“Before PCEF, we had zero dollars dedicated to creating opportunities for folks who have been left out of the economic engine of the city of Portland,” said Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, “We’re going to start creating some awesome opportunities for people in our community who could have never imagined them.”
But opponents of the effort say that the tax will affect “Portlanders who can least afford it,” though they are in agreement that action must be taken to combat climate change.
“While we remain seriously concerned with the impact this gross receipts tax will have on Portlanders who can least afford it, we stand in agreement with the proponents of this measure that much more must be done to lessen the impacts of climate change to those most affected,” said president and CEO of the Portland Business Alliance Andrew Hoan.
The spending of the money comes with very few restrictions and guidelines, as it is a first-of-its-kind tax that has never been implemented in any other city. This is a concern for those who will be impacted.
“What are the accountability means they are going to use to track outcomes?” asks Maurice Rahming, who owns O’Neill Electric. “At the end of the day, it’s about accountability and delivering on services.”
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the tax and the use of subsequent funds, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler believes that the PCEF should inspire other large cities and perhaps even the entire United States.
“It’s a model for the rest of the nation,” he said with pride. “A beacon and a testament to our community’s belief in doing things a different way.”
Unfortunately for Wheeler, America largely rejected the nation-wide version of this legislation in the Green New Deal, which failed spectacularly when even AOC’s fellow Democrats couldn’t bring themselves to vote for it.
As BizPac Review reported at the time:
Democrats spent months spouting off about the environmental crisis at hand and the end of humanity in a dozen years if the bill didn’t pass but not a single one voted “yea” on Tuesday when McConnell called their bluff by forcing a vote in the Senate.
While they slammed McConnell for attempting to advance their own bill, Democrats displayed their hypocrisy by not even having the courage to vote “nay” on the climate change proposal they championed, with 43 of them just voting “present” as even 2020 contenders failed to rise to the challenge.
This certainly doesn’t bode well for Wheeler’s plan to make the PCEF “a model for the rest of the nation.”
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