At its most recent meeting, Ontario City Council gave the approval to Ontario City Manager Adam Brown to seek out the services of a lobbyist for bills going through the Oregon Legislature, with an imposed fund cap of $20,000 coming from the city’s General Fund.
The lobbyist would be for House Bills 2014 and 2015. The first of these bills was sponsored by Rep. Mark Owens, R-Crane, at the city’s request.
City manager explains more
The Argus reached out to Brown to ask for additional details on where he is in the process of obtaining the services of a lobbyist. He responded in an email on Tuesday morning.
“I am waiting on two proposals for lobbying services. The lobbyist will be responsible for identifying key legislators whose influence is needed to move these bills along and then making the case on the city’s behalf as to why we need these bills. HB 2015 proposes to increase the local option tax from 3% to 10%.
Each percentage increase would mean another $1 million to the city in revenue,” wrote Brown.
He also explained how HB 2014 “is a little more complicated” since this bill is being “compounded” by Measure 110,” which voters just passed in the 2020 General Election. Brown said the measure is reducing the amount of revenue sharing going to cities and counties “by around 75%,” as that money will now be diverted for addiction and treatment services.
Brown said that an idea was “to remove Ontario from the sharing calculation so that our revenue sharing would be based on our actual sales in Ontario.”
“Right now the city has been sending locally collected revenue sharing to other cities throughout the state, because our amount is based on the population of Ontario,” wrote Brown.
It is noteworthy that the city is not actually sending other cities money, but the way the state calculates the formula for tax given back to municipalities is based on population, not sales.
Therefore, more populous cities that have allowed the sale of recreational marijuana but have fewer sales get more of the state’s distribution.
Rep. Mark Owens comments
In a phone interview on Tuesday with Owens, the District 60 representative talked about his sponsorship of HB 2014 and what it means to the local community.
Owens said that he had “conversations with [Ontario] Mayor Riley Hill on this topic.” He said that Ontario should be receiving more than a 3% share of the tax revenue. Owens said that if one were to look at the sales figures, it would show that many of the sales are coming from Idaho customers.
Owens said that the current distribution formula is based on population and the number of retail shops in a city; of that tax revenue, 3% is the amount that is shared with the city.
“Ontario should get their fair share of the tax revenue,” said Owens.
He then said that he felt that marijuana sales are not being taxed enough at the current rates.
“We need to bring more money into our communities,” said Owens.
Leslie Thompson contributed to this story.