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Newport voters will decide on gas tax, restaurant tax

City of Newport
Voters in Newport are deciding on two local tax measures during the November election.

Voters in Newport are deciding whether to increase the city’s gas tax and to create a new tax on restaurant meals.

Just two Oregon cities charge a sales tax on eating out: Ashland and Yachats.

Voters could add Newport to that list if they approve a five percent tax on restaurant meals. The Newport City Council, which referred Measure 21-205 to the ballot, said in the explanatory statement for the measure that the revenue would be used to hire police officers, firefighters and librarians, and to improve the city’s parks.

"Currently, these facilities and services are primarily supported by residents and businesses located in the city, although widely used by visitors to Newport," wrote the council in the voter's pamphlet. "This concept was selected because it shares the burden of financing these important local government services and facilities with visitors, and does not place the entire responsibility of financing these facilities and
services on property owners and renters of the city."

The proposal has drawn opposition from the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association. The group’s lobbyist, Greg Astley, said it’s a bitter pill for an industry that’s been hit especially hard by the pandemic.

“To put that burden on restaurants right now, to me, is unconscionable," he said. "It’s completely unfair to single out an industry like restaurants and ask them to do this.”

Voters in Cannon Beach will also vote on a five percent tax on prepared food during the November election. Some restaurant owners in both Cannon Beach and Newport have contributed to a campaign against the measures that's been spearheaded by the Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Astley, the group's lobbyist, said he thinks voters will reject the measures in both cities.

"Oregonians have voted down a statewide sales tax nine times," he said. "It's just not something that they want. And we don't think that they want it on their meals any more than they would want it on any other purchase that they make."

But Newport's mayor, Dean Sawyer, says the revenue from the tax is badly needed.

"Our police department has been reduced to a level
they were at in 1990 and our fire crews are at a minimum and do not meet national standards," Sawyer wrote in the voter's pamphlet. "Please vote yes on the Prepared Food Tax as it will shift some of the financial burden onto the tourists."

Newport voters will also consider hiking the city’s gas tax to five cents a gallon to pay for road repairs. It’s now one cent or three cents a gallon depending on the time of year.

Measure 21-206 make the tax five cents per gallon year-round.

Unlike the proposed restaurant tax, no one filed arguments in opposition to the motor fuel tax in the voter's pamphlet.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018 and became News Director in March, 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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