Petition Fails to Refer County Vehicle Registration Fee to Voters, but Opposition Is Alive and Well

A petition effort to put the county’s new vehicle registration fee before voters failed to submit the required number of signatures before the deadline passed last month, but one of the lead petitioners says their fight is far from over.

When the new fee, commonly referred to as a VRF, was being discussed in February, a number of opponents raised the concern that commissioners were enacting it as an ordinance rather than placing it on the ballot. Commissioners countered that they had gone to the voters numerous times seeking support for local funding of road maintenance, and had always been turned down at the ballot box.

The petition effort would have put the issue before voters anyway, but petitioners failed to submit the required 8,011 signatures before the May 23 deadline. Lead petitioner Herbert Chow said they collected thousands of signatures, but simply ran out of time to get all that they needed.

Though he declined to give the exact number of signatures they collected, he emphasized the “No VRF” movement is “definitely not dead.”

He expressed his gratitude to the many residents who supported the petition effort, calling them “true Clackamas County patriots.”

In explaining why he and his fellow petitioners are so opposed to the new fee, he echoed some of the arguments on the group’s website, NoVRF.com, namely, that the county is already receiving millions more road funds through its share of new gas taxes passed by the state. Therefore, the $11 million the new fee is expected to generate should not be needed.

The language he used, though, was much more colorful.

The county’s fee was approved by the Board of Commissioners in February on a 4-1 vote (Paul Savas was the lone dissenter). It adds an additional $60 to your biennial registration fee for passenger vehicles, though there are exceptions for farm vehicles, recreational vehicles (such as travel trailers, campers and snowmobiles), vehicles registered to disabled veterans or former POWs and registered antique vehicles or classic cars.

Motorcycle owners pay only $30 every two years.

Barring any other increases, it would raise your biennial registration fee from $112 to $172, which is the same as the registration fee in Washington County. The funds would be split 60-40 between the county and cities (based on population) and would go toward improving county roads and improving traffic flow with capital projects that the county otherwise would have no funding for.

Canby, the county’s seventh-largest city, would receive an estimated $331,281 annually. The two largest cities in Clackamas County, Lake Oswego and Oregon City, would get about $700,000 each, while the smallest, Barlow, would see only $2,724.

The county has prepared a list of proposed projects that would be funded with their portion of the fee revenue should it be enacted. There are more projects on the list than could be addressed with the available funding, so if it’s passed, county leadership would have to prioritize the most-needed and high-impact items.

Proposed projects for the Canby area include:

  • Add dual left-turn lanes on southbound Barlow Road at the intersection with Highway 99E.
  • Reconstruct intersection and install northbound left-turn lane and southbound right-turn lane at the intersection of Canby-Marquam Highway and Lone Elder Road.
  • Add paved shoulders to North Holly Street from Territorial Road to the Canby Ferry.
  • Add paved shoulders and turn lanes at major intersections on Township Road from Canby city limits to Central Point Road.
  • A county road official we spoke with estimated the new fee will take effect in January.The county and state are still working on the agreement that will dictate the collection of the fees and how the funds are distributed to the county.

    For information from the county about the VRF, see https://www.clackamas.us/transportation/vrf.

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