The BRASS Tax: Raise revenue from the wealthiest to pay for crucial services for all

At the second Community Budget Forum on Tuesday, Portlanders demanded that City Hall not cut programs that people rely on. Yesterday morning, we took calls for more public funding to the next level by announcing the Basic Rights and Social Services (BRASS) Tax in front of Wells Fargo downtown.

The BRASS Tax will raise revenue from the wealthiest households and businesses to pay for crucial social services. Portland is booming for those at the top, while houselessness is on the rise, and many Portlanders are living paycheck-to-paycheck. The people of Portland and our economy will be stronger if we increase public investment in affordable housing, early childhood education, and other services like mental health and addiction programs.

All that’s missing is the political will. That ends now.

The BRASS Tax is a revenue plan tied to funding for crucial social programs, including: 

  • City-wide, tuition-free and universal Pre-K staffed by teachers paid and supported on par with Portland’s K-12 teachers.
  • Massive expansion of public emergency, transitional and affordable housing projects, built or purchased with bonds paid back through rents and BRASS Tax revenues.
  • Mental health and addiction programs to reduce suffering and replace a criminal justice-approach to health problems.
  • Full-time, family wage positions at Portland’s Parks and Recreation to end the excessive reliance on “temporary” workers.

In order to fund these programs, the BRASS Tax proposes the following changes to Portland’s tax structure:

  • Raise Portland’s business income taxes on the biggest companies, which are almost all global multinational corporations. This progressive tax would raise the threshold for exemption, while raising rates at the top.
  • Create a city income tax with rising rates on the top 10%, 5%, 2% and 1% of income-earners.
  • Enact a city-wide luxury tax on extravagant consumer goods and services—cars over $80,000, jewelry over $5,000, & cosmetic surgery.
  • Improve upon the Novick CEO tax.
  • Explore a linkage fee similar to what Seattle has – it would be the price of doing business in Portland for big out-of-state developers and contractors.

Economist Mary C. King, Portland Public School teacher & union activist Hyung Nam, and parent & early childhood educator Deanna Cohen explain why Portland needs the BRASS Tax.

Not only is the BRASS Tax morally correct, it makes good economic sense. Shifting money from the top to the bottom is a direct stimulus to the economy. Excessive wealth sits in a bank account doing nothing, or fuels unproductive speculation that pushes up real estate values and other prices. As profits rise, so too will the obligation owed to the community that helped that company or individual thrive.

Thank you to everyone who came out yesterday, and to all the folks who have volunteered, donated, or spread the word about this campaign to change City Hall for the better!

-Julia