All Politics is Local

Vancouver councilors speak against Oregon tolling plan

Oregon Department of Transportation Project Manager for Value Pricing Feasibility Analysis Judith Gray stopped by Monday’s city council workshop to provide an update on the project and answer any questions. Councilor Ty Stober said he had so many questions Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle joked she would charge him by the question.

The council had plenty.

“You can see where there’s concern, that (the project) feels very targeted,” Stober said. “Taxation without representation, because going back to Vancouver being the second largest city in the state of Oregon, both in terms of population and in our contributions to Oregon income tax. So a major amount of concern there.”

Councilor Alishia Topper agreed.

“I just want to be honest, the more I hear, the more resistance and passion I myself am feeling toward this proposal,” she said.

Many on the council expressed concern that Oregon is planning to unfairly tax Southwest Washington in order to pay for its infrastructure.

“Hearing this proposal just felt so sugar coated and not realistic so I want to make sure that Vancouver’s voice is heard, that I’m represented,” Topper said. “This is not a good deal for Vancouver. I’m sorry, it’s not.”

McEnerny-Ogle, one of three Washington representatives serving on the Value Pricing Committee considering a tolling proposal, took to asking how Washington could benefit financially from tolling near the state line. Using toll revenue to help fund C-TRAN’s bridge crossing service, for example, or proving transportation vouchers for Washington residents.

“At this stage, for those kinds of changes or services that you think would be needed, I think it’s a reasonable time to say what that is,” Gray said. “And not necessarily rule it out because of an existing rule.”

Gray was unable to give specific answers but encouraged Vancouver to stay engaged and continue to be part of the conversation.

“We don’t want to just rule things out, we want to look at strategies that work,” Gray said.

Stober had one final proposal.

“We have operated for a long time as an ‘other,’” he said. “I think it’s time for us to seriously consider hiring a lobbyist in Oregon at their state capitol because there have now been a couple different pieces of Oregon legislation that have a pretty heavy impact in our community.”

Katy Sword

I cover the city of Vancouver and federal politics. Reach me at katy.sword@columbian.com.

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