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City gas tax ballot measure title challenged

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UPDATE: Novick defends ballot title as accurate


Opponents of Portland's proposed 10-cent-a-gallon gas tax have asked the Multnomah County County to reject the city-prepared ballot title and ballot summary.

The City Council wants voters to approve the four-year tax at the may Primary Election. But Paul Romain, director of the Oregon Fuels Association, has filed a court challenge saying the title does not accurately represent the measure.

And Romain says the city-prepared ballot summary includes information — such as a list of projects to be funded by the measure — not allowed by state election law.

"The title is basically just a campaign slogan and the summary includes things that aren't even in the measure," Romain said.

But Commissioner Steve Novick, who introduced the measure, defends the title as accurate.

"The proposed title is accurate and informative. Paul Romain wants a title that says nothing about the fact that the money would be used to fix the streets and make them safer. He has made it clear over the years that for some reason, he is opposed to ANY effort to fix Portland's streets. His attack on the title is just a reflection of that," Novick said in an email to the Portland Tribune.

The title prepared by the city reads, "Temporary Motor Vehicle Tax for Street Repair, Traffic Safety." Romain says it should read, "Temporary Motor Vehicle Tax, Exempts Heavy Trucks."

Romain admits the court cannot legally amend the ballot summary, so he is asking that it simply be thrown out.

Novick also said that he and Portland Bureau of Transportation officials are working on a plan to tax heavy trucks.

"We are exploring a new way to make the heavy trucks pay, a 'load fee,' which Romain has said he will oppose. So he's highlighting the exemption of heavy trucks (which was based on the belief they will simply bypass the one truck stop in Portland anyway), while saying he himself will oppose making the heavy trucks pay." Novick said.

Romain's challenge was filed on Feb. 5. City officials have until Feb. 23 to respond, and Romaine has until Feb. 29 to reply. The court hearings is set for March 3 before Multnomah County Circuit Judge Karin Immergut.