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Street fee vote delayed again - now it's Jan. 7, 2015

The City Council postponed the final vote on the proposed street fee again at its Wednesday hearing. Now the final vote is set for Jan. 7 of next year, two weeks after the previous date for the final vote, which had been Dec. 17.

Instead of holding a final vote next Wednesday, the council could consider even more amendments to the proposal, Mayor Charlie Hales announced at the beginning of the Dec. 10 hearing. Even if no more amendments are ready next Wednesday, the final vote will still be postponed, Hales said.

The Dec. 10 was held to accept an amendment to exempt home based businesses that gross less than $50,000 a year from the non-residential portion of the fee. Non-home based businesses that gross less than $50,000 would only be charged $3 a year.

"No matter how you dress this up, it is still a pig," perennial witness Joe Walsh testified. "This is not ready for prime time."

The proposal by Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick includes a progressive personal income tax as the residential portion and a sliding scale for businesses, governments and nonprofit. It is intended to raise $46 million a year for maintenance and safety projects. The amendment accepted Wednesday would reduce the residential portion an estimated $2.2 million a year.

Hales and Novick are insisting the council not refer it to the ballot, and they are looking for a third vote that agrees. Opponents are screening professional signature collection firms to launch a referral drive.

If the council approves the proposal without referring it to the ballot, opponents would have 30 days to collect signatures from 20,897 registered Portland voters for each ordinance — a total of 41,794 valid signatures. If enough valid signatures are verified by election officials, the proposal will not take effect unless it is approved by the voters.