PSU president mulls putting payroll tax to voters

Wim Wiewel is hoping voters will approve a measure that would add $35 million to the university’s coffers.

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Portland State University President Wim Wiewel is hoping voters will approve a measure that would add $35 million to the university’s coffers via a payroll tax.

The 0.1% tax would be imposed on businesses that fall under the jurisdiction of the Metro government.

Wiewel said the proposal stems from the state’s ongoing disinvestment in higher education. He said students now pay three-quarters of the cost of attending the university, a reversal from the mid-90s when the state paid three-quarters.

“This has priced out many low- and moderate-income people,” he said. “We want to educate a broad range of people from the Portland metro area. If we don’t do that, this region is going to be in a world of hurt. I know Portland businesses have been successful in attracting labor from outside the state. We’re a hip, cool city. But the consequence (of not acting) is that we’re creating a local underclass that is not well educated enough.”

(SOURCE: Portland Business Journal)

Wiewel has said that the institution needs more money after the state legislature failed to adequately fund universities in its previous session.

“I would much rather have a statewide solution, but I have been fighting for seven years now,” he says, acknowledging that the state boosted funding to Oregon’s seven public universities by $30 million this biennium, but it was $55 million short of what they asked for. “It’s still not anywhere near enough for what we need.”

Wiewel argues that to make up for inflation and a bigger student body and to improve offerings, the universities actually needed closer to $1 billion.

(SOURCE: Portland Tribune)

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