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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 29 January 2020

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has filed a resolution for the legislative session that starts next week asking voters to amend the state constitution to allow for real estate transfer taxes, which are assessed when property changes ownership.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that the money raised would go to fund affordable housing.

House Joint Resolution 203 would exempt the first $500,000 of a property's value from taxation. The governor has not proposed a tax rate nor set a goal for how much revenue she'd like to raise, her office says.

"Outside of how we build, construct and develop housing, we don't have an ongoing dedicated source of funding to provide the services," said Shannon Singleton, Brown's housing policy adviser. "Local jurisdictions don't necessarily have the ability to meet service level needs without some sort of new revenue."

If it gets traction, Brown's resolution would become the latest high-profile housing proposal slated for the 35-day session that begins Feb. 3.

Eight years ago realtors and business groups poured millions of dollars into Measure 79, which created a prohibition on real estate transfer taxes in the state constitution.

Oregon statutes already prohibited localities from creating such taxes, but Measure 79 proponents wanted more certainty. They made hard-to-prove claims that cities around the state had been plotting to institute transfer taxes, and that such a move would create another burden for homeowners and prospective buyers.

"We are very concerned about anything that would make a terrible housing situation even worse," the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce wrote in a voters' pamphlet statement.

Opponents countered that the measure was unnecessary and would add unneeded complexity to the state's constitution. Measure 79 wound up resonating with voters and passed with nearly 59% of the vote.

As a result, the Oregon Constitution now prohibits any "tax, fee or other assessment upon the transfer of any interest in real property, or measured by the consideration paid or received upon the transfer of any interest in real property." A 0.1% transfer tax that Washington County had in place when the measure passed was allowed to continue.

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