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County may enact vehicle fees

Washington County could become the second county in the region to enact a motor vehicle fee of up to $43 a year per car for road maintenance.

Multnomah County enacted such a fee several years ago to help fund the replacement of the Sellwood Bridge. Now the Washington County Board of Commissioners is considering a motor vehicle fee to help meet a projected $10 million shortfall in maintenance funds over the next 10 years.

The commission has asked the Washington County Coordinating Committee to review the proposal and make a recommendation. The committee, which includes representatives from most governmental jurisdictions in the county, next meets on June 10.

“If the committee sends back a recommendation after that meeting, the commission would take it up right away and we could have a decision soon,” said Andy Duyck, chairman of the Board of Commissioners.

According to Duyck, additional road maintenance funds are expected to be needed in part because the state gas tax — which is shared with the county — is not keeping pace with inflation.

A staff report reviewed by the commission noted that such a fee could ultimately raise $18 million a year. It proposes to start the fee at $4 and increase it 10 percent a year until it reaches $43, the same as the state motor vehicle fee, which is the legal limit.

Certain vehicles would be exempt from the fee, including farm equipment and school buses.

The staff report also proposes sharing 40 percent of the funds with cities around the county. When fully phased in, Beaverton and Hillsboro would receive approximately $2 million, Tigard would receive approximately $1 million, and Sherwood, Tualatin and Forest Grove would each receive approximately $500,000.

The Jobs and Transportation Act approved by the 2009 Oregon Legislature allowed the Sellwood Bridge fee, but prohibited counties from enacting other motor vehicle fees until July of this year. At that time, counties with more than 350,000 people can enact such new fees without a public vote. Washington, Clackamas, Multnomah and Lane counties meet that criteria. All other counties must submit proposals for these fees to a countywide vote.



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