Business Energy Tax Credit
From Portland Afoot
The Business Energy Tax Credit, widely known as BETC and pronounced "Betsy," is an Oregon state program that has given financial incentives to businesses, nonprofits and government agencies for reducing their energy use. Most of the transportation-related benefits, however, are phasing out in December.
Portland employers that subsidize TriMet passes, for example, could reduce their future tax liability by 35% of the cost of the program. BETC credits also paid for TriMet's share of the YouthPass program, which gave free passes to Portland Public high schoolers, and they reduced the City of Portland's cost for every bike staple it installs.
BETC eligibility for these programs, among many others, were on track to expire at the end of 2011.
 Employers claiming BETC for transit benefits
Because of the paperwork required to receive a BETC credit, many small employers do not bother to claim it. For large employers, however, the savings are substantial: $632,806, for example, at The Standard, the insurance company headquartered in downtown Portland. According to a May 2011 record provided by the Oregon Department of Energy, these companies received BETC credit for their TriMet pass benefits in recent years. Click the arrows atop a column to sort by that column:
|Name||City||Precert Date||Final Date||One-year tax credit amount|
|Standard Insurance Company||Portland||1/26/09||11/2/10||$632,806|
|Providence Health System - Oregon||Portland||12/3/09||Pending||$478,694|
|Multnomah County / Shell Funk||Portland||4/10/09||9/15/10||$377,785|
|Lloyd Transportation Managment Assoc. (TMA)||Portland||11/6/09||Pending||$291,930|
|Lloyd Transportation Management Association (TMA)||Portland||1/16/09||10/19/10||$267,003|
|City of Portland Bureau of Transportation||Portland||12/28/09||Pending||$138,250|
|Legacy Health System||Portland||10/21/08||3/17/10||$135,378|
|Harland Financial Solutions, Inc.||Portland||9/9/10||1/24/11||$51,655|
|Lloyd Business Improvement District||Portland||1/16/09||4/29/10||$51,042|
|Stoel Rives LLP||Portland||10/6/09||2/17/10||$49,928|
|Colubmia Sportswear Company||Portland||10/15/09||1/20/11||$43,538|
|Port of Portland||Portland||10/21/08||10/19/10||$36,020|
|Lloyd Business Improvement Dist (BID)||Portland||11/6/09||Pending||$35,000|
|Mulvanny G2 Architecture||Portland||10/15/09||10/22/10||$14,186|
|Terwilliger Plaza, Inc||Portland||9/9/10||Pending||$12,136|
|Tonkon Torp LLP||Portland||1/27/10||4/28/11||$11,409|
|City of Portland Bureau of Transportation System||Portland||10/19/09||Pending||$8,857|
|SRG Partnership, Inc||Portland||9/9/10||11/24/10||$8,616|
|Vernier Software & Technology LLC||Beaverton||9/9/10||12/23/10||$7,336|
|Evraz Inc. NA||Portland||10/6/09||10/4/10||$6,903|
|Swan Island Transportation Mananagement Assoc.||Portland||2/4/09||Pending||$6,217|
|Harsch Investment Corp||Portland||12/18/09||3/3/11||$6,032|
|Transcore Commercial Services LLC||Beaverton||8/11/10||1/24/11||$5,187|
|Paulson Investment Co||Portland||1/26/09||1/6/10||$5,125|
|GBJ Architecture, P.C.||Portland||10/6/09||12/10/09||$4,710|
|Dr. Martens Air Wair USA||Portland||10/9/09||6/11/10||$4,165|
|Paulson Investment Co., Inc||Portland||1/27/10||2/25/11||$4,106|
|Red Shield Insurance Company||Portland||1/27/10||1/20/11||$3,711|
|Pop Art, Inc.||Portland||2/10/09||6/9/10||$3,150|
|Ferguson Wellman Capital Management, Inc||Portland||9/4/10||11/2/10||$2,897|
|POP Art, Inc||Portland||1/6/10||1/24/11||$2,712|
|Integral Consulting Inc.||Portland||10/15/09||12/10/09||$2,662|
|Melvin Mark Brokerage Company||Portland||9/9/10||12/23/10||$2,569|
|Ferguson Wellman Capital Management, Inc||Portland||10/6/09||10/29/09||$2,517|
|Melvin Mark Companies||Portland||10/6/09||10/29/09||$2,380|
|General Tool & Supply Company||Portland||1/20/09||2/23/09||$2,177|
|Pacific Northwest College of Art||Portland||10/19/09||2/9/10||$1,575|
|Keelson Partners, Inc||Portland||9/9/10||12/10/10||$1,287|
|Keelson Partners, Inc||Portland||12/18/09||2/5/10||$1,180|
|Integral Consulting, Inc.||Portland||5/15/09||7/20/09||$1,168|
|Forest Dental Products, Inc||Hillsboro||4/6/09||2/12/10||$1,164|
|Bradley M. Marten||Portland||9/9/10||4/21/11||$644|
|Clean Copy, Inc,||Portland||9/4/10||11/2/10||$641|
|Beth Allen Law PC||Portland||8/3/10||11/12/10||$568|
|World Affairs Council of Oregon||Portland||10/2/09||5/4/11||$253|
|World Affairs Council of Oregon||Portland||10/1/10|
|Vigor Industrial LLC||Portland||4/6/09|
|Stahancyk, Kent, Johnson & Hook, PC||Portland||3/5/10|
|SOO Portland State University Transportation & Par||Portland||10/27/09|
|SOO Oregon Health & Science University||Portland||9/9/10|
|Solar World Industries Services, Inc.||Hillsboro||10/28/08|
|Serena Software, Inc.||Hillsboro||11/26/08|
|Seattle-Northwest Securities Corporation||Portland||5/5/10|
|Sagacity Media, Inc||Portland||8/16/10|
|Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon||Portland||6/4/10|
|R2C Group (Respond 2 Commmunications Inc.)||Portland||3/31/09|
|Portland Community College||Portland||10/1/10|
|Port of Portland||Portland||8/11/10|
|Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy||Portland||8/11/10|
|Oregon Health & Science University||Portland||11/6/09|
|Multnomah County School District No. 1J||Portland||10/28/08|
|Lloyd Transportation Management Association||Portland||11/5/10|
|Lloyd BID, Inc.||Portland||10/1/10|
|Legacy Health System||Portland||7/21/10|
|Harsch Investment Corp.||Portland||7/12/10|
|Forest Dental Products Inc||Hillsboro||2/8/10|
|Evraz Inc. NA||Portland||9/28/10|
|Edward W. Sager, CPA PC||Portland||11/5/08|
|D.W. Block Associates, LLC||Portland||9/9/10|
|D. W. Block Associates LLC||Portland||2/8/10|
|Cummins Northwest, LLC||Portland||1/26/09|
|Con-way Inc., Calso Menlo Logistics & Con-way Ent.||Portland||11/26/08|
|Columbia Sportswear Company||Portland||9/28/10|
|Cogan Owens Cogan LLC||Portland||6/4/10|
|City of Portland - Bureau of Transportation||Portland||10/1/10|
|Beery Elsner & Hammond, LLP.||Portland||5/10/11|
|Bamboo Sushi, LLC / Kristofor Lofgren||Portland||2/8/10|
|Avatron Software, Inc.||Portland||3/5/10|
|Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects, Inc||Portland||1/27/10|
Some companies on the list claimed credits for multiple years or separate projects, and are listed more than once. Other compaines applied for BETC, but had not been approved, and did not yet have dollar figures on record.
 How BETC works
 For for-profit businesses
A for-profit business that completes a qualified transportation project can deduct up to 35 percent of the project's cost from its state business tax liability.
Among the qualified projects are measures to reduce car trips such as bicycle facilities and transit passes for employees.
 For nonprofits and governments
When a nonprofit or government agency creates an energy-saving program, it can recover some of its costs by finding a private "pass-through partner" such as a bank or other for-profit company.
This is how it works for transportation projects: The private company gives a lump sum of cash to the nonprofit or agency: 25.5 percent of the cost of the energy-saving program. Over the following five years, the private company can reduce its state taxes by up to 35 percent of the cost of the program.
In the case of YouthPass, whose 2009 pass-through partner is Portland-based mobile company Consumer Cellular, the program costs $10 million annually. Consumer Cellular gives TriMet $2.55 million to help buy free transit passes for high school students. Consumer Cellular then gets a $3.5 million tax break, spread over the next five years.
If Consumer Cellular turns out not to owe any state taxes in some of those years, Portland Business Alliance lobbyist Bernie Bottomly said in May 2011, it forfeits some of its future savings.
 Criticism as "boondoggle"
Some argue that this creates inefficient ways to pay for useful programs. Progressive Oregon Director Noah Heller called BETC a "boondooggle" and said in May 2011 that the state would be better off just spending $2.5 million a year on, for example, the YouthPass program.
"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."
Did you find this page useful? Could it get better? You're meeting Portland Afoot in its toddlerhood! You can help build this free online guide to low-car life in PDX by clicking "edit" in the right sidebar and adding what you know. Or just leave your questions or ideas below. Thanks for visiting!