Progressive advocate: Tax credits are the wrong way to pay for YouthPass

school passThe Business Energy Tax Credit is an inefficient way to buy free transit passes for high schoolers in Portland, Eugene and Salem, a left-leaning political advocate said Monday.

Progressive Oregon Executive Director Noah Heller called YouthPass "an innovative effort" that should simply be paid for directly.

"Unfortunately, it is tethered to the BETC boondoggle – a massive corporate giveaway we simply can’t afford," Heller wrote in an email.

Heller’s comments echo similar sentiments from Rep. Vicki Berger (R-Salem) and Rep. Tobias Read (D-Beaverton), key legislators on the relevant committees – legislators who may support BETC but say it’s a bad way to pay for direct-service programs like this one.

But so far, bipartisan agreement on policy hasn’t been leading to solutions, and the legislative session is ticking to its close, which is scheduled for late June. Berger said last week that there’s been little discussion of how to pay for the program if not by a tax credit.

Heller said he’d considered a campaign to save the pass, but decided against it because – in the case of the PPS program, of instance –  it hands up to $3.5 million in tax breaks to Portland-based Consumer Cellular in exchange for $2.5 million in cash.

Like Berger and Read, Heller suggested that a program by which the state simply gave Portland Public Schools $2.5 million for student transportation could save everyone time and money – except, of course, Consumer Cellular.

"These programs should be able to defend themselves on their own," Heller said. "I think the YouthPass does, and should be funded through regular budgetary means."

We’ll continue to cover this issue as it develops.

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