Statewide employee tax will fund low-income fares
TriMet will begin a low-income fare discount program thanks to support from additional revenue that will be generated by the new transportation funding measure approved by the 2017 Oregon Legislature.
House Bill 2017, the transportation measure, was approved by the House on Wednesday, July 5, and the Senate on the following Thursday. It is expected to be approved and signed by Gov. Kate Brown.
The $5.3 billion spending plan was the first comprehensive transportation package to receive legislative approval since 2009 and will be used to fund projects across the state.
Part of the measure will include a statewide 0.1 percent payroll tax that will support transit improvements, excluding light rail projects.
TriMet expects to receive up to $40 million a year in additional revenue from the payroll tax.
The allocation will be used to fund the low-income fare program, which will cost $12 million annually, and expand bus service.
The fare program will reduce costs by 50 percent for those below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Under the 2017 federal guidelines, that would include people earning an annual income up to $24,120 or a family of four with earnings up to $49,200.
"Access to public transit is access to economic opportunity," said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane. "This package represents an investment in Oregon, its economy and its people."
The tax that will fund the low-income fare, along with the other investments, represents about $20 per year for Oregon's minimum wage earners.
It would cost those making $100,000 about $100 per year. If signed by Brown, the tax will go into effect July 1, 2018.
TriMet expects to develop a plan for implementation of the low-income fare as soon as the new state funds become available, most likely in early 2019.