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It Turns Out Portlanders Like an Income Tax Increase After All?


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Thursday, June 27, 2013

BREAKING: City Prevails in Second Arts Tax Challenge

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Portland's new $35 Arts Tax is not a so-called "head tax." That's the ruling last week from a Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge who ruled in the city's favor on one of two challenges to the much-grumbled-over measure.

"The Arts Tax is not a Poll or Head tax as prohibited by the Oregon Constitution," Judge Kelly Skye writes in a June 21 opinion. "A poll or head tax is 'a fixed tax assessed on each eligible person.' The Arts Tax is not a head or poll tax because it is not assessed per capita."

The decision marks the city's second victory in challenges to the tax. Earlier this month an Oregon Tax Court judge dismissed a similar challenge by former Portland blogger Jack Bogdanski.

"Asked and answered," said Mayor Charlie Hales said in a statement on the decision. “Can the challenges be appealed? Yes, but we don’t know that they will. We want to wait to hear from the city attorney regarding our best options, and then we want to get the input of the entire City Council before moving forward.”

Bogdanski previously indicated to Willamette Week he intends to appeal the matter.

Skye's ruling hinged on the fact the Arts Tax takes into consideration Portlanders' income, and exempts people under the age of 18.

"The practical effect of the tax is to tax income of certain City residents within a certain income range and is therefore not a poll or head tax," the judge wrote.

Here's the ruling [pdf] from Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Kelly Skye.

George Wittemyer, the Portland man who filed the suit, did not immediately return a message asking for comment.

"Because the only accurate source defendant has for reference to persons subject to its 'arts tax' is voter registration within the city limits ... defendant's "arts lax" is no different from poll taxes," Wittemyer wrote in the suit, in which he represented himself. The litigation also touched on a beef the man had with the city over rebuilding his burnt-down Northwest Portland home.

If you've been hedging on paying the tax because of these suits, it was due June 10, and you now owe $50 to help fund six Portland school districts and the Regional Arts & Culture Council. That'll rise another $20 if you haven't paid by October.

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