By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

Unofficial Bend gas tax election results

As of 12:28 a.m.

No: 18,049 (63.84%)

Yes: 10,225 (36.16%)

Bend voters dealt a decisive blow to the city’s plans to pay for road improvements Tuesday night, appearing to soundly reject a 5-cent gas tax measure.

Results released shortly before 10 p.m. had the measure losing by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Both supporters and opponents said they didn’t expect the results to change as additional votes were counted throughout the evening.

Peter Werner, part of the Yes For Bend Roads campaign, said it was too early to say if supporters of the gas tax could have done anything differently.

“Naturally, I was hoping it would be lopsided in the other direction, as a clearer mandate from the citizenry wanting to support Bend streets and the city, but it turned out differently,” he said.

Jeff Eager, a former Bend mayor and one of the leaders of the opposition campaign, said the high turnout — 58.2 percent — suggested the measure may have drawn out voters who don’t often cast a ballot on local measures.

“People are concerned about the affordability of living in Bend and have some questions about the way the city has prioritized its spending,” Eager said. “Those people turned out, based on the initial numbers.”

The Bend City Council elected to put the gas tax on the ballot on the advice of a citizens’ committee, which last year recommended the tax as the best way for the city to generate the funds to begin addressing an estimated $80 million in deferred street maintenance.

The 5-cent-per-gallon tax was projected to generate approximately $2.5 million a year and would have expired after 10 years.

Opponents of the tax criticized the city for spending $70,000 to stage the March election, in which the gas tax was the only issue on the ballot, rather than waiting until the May primary. Backers countered that a yes vote in May would have come too late for the city to begin road repairs this summer and that waiting another year to begin would have pushed the cost of needed work up by more than $70,000.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin.com

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