Portland Area Tax Measures Approved in May 21 Election

Portland area tax measures received big support from voters in the May 21 primary election. Despite recent dissatisfaction with elected officials and the direction of their communities, voters demonstrated their generosity by approving various spending measures. While only one measure was defeated, the majority of the tri-county region measures passed with large margins.

The defeated measure was a $149 million bond proposed by the Estacada School District. However, all the other measures in the tri-county region were approved, including renewed or new property tax dollars for the Oregon Zoo, Portland Public Schools, the Portland Bureau of Transportation, flood protection along the Columbia River, and several public safety and park agencies.

The results were surprising as recent surveys had indicated voter dissatisfaction with elected officials and the direction of their communities. However, the majority of voters who participated in the May 21 election demonstrated their support by approving these tax measures. One possible reason for the high approval rate could be the low turnout, which favored motivated supporters. 

Compared to the 2022 Presidential primary election, where the Democratic and Republican nominees are already all but certain, and with no City of Portland races on the ballot due to charter reforms approved by city voters, the turnout was significantly reduced. Statewide, only 28% of voters returned their ballots, representing a 17% reduction from two years ago. In Multnomah County, the turnout was just 25%, a drop of 30%. Similarly, in Washington County, the turnout was 25.5%, a 30% reduction, and in Clackamas County, only 24% of voters returned their ballots, a 35% drop.

Portland voters also renewed the city’s 10-cent per gallon gas tax by a resounding 72% to 28%. Measure 26-245 will continue the Fixing Our Streets tax, which was first approved by voters in 2016 and renewed in 2020. Over the past eight years, this tax has generated approximately $150 million, which has been used to repave 80 lane miles of streets, fill over 40,000 potholes, and complete over 200 safety improvements.