Oregon Gov. Kate Brown promised in 2019 to double the $20 million the state had already earmarked for the 2021 World Athletics Championships in Eugene. She said as much in an April 2019 letter to the International Association of Athletics Federations and sought $5 million for the project from the 2019 Legislature.
This year, however, Brown has been largely silent on the subject, and that’s a problem.
The statewide transient room tax was increased temporarily in 2016, and unless the Legislature acts this year, it will drop to 1.5% from 1.8% this summer. House Bill 4047, introduced at the request of the governor, would make the higher tax permanent.
Beyond that, however, she’s apparently been largely silent on the bill and her promise to the IAAF and the local Oregon21 to find the remaining $20 million. She sent a letter of support for HB 4047, but did not mention the Eugene championships in it.
More important, as written the bill turns spending of the additional money the measure would raise over to Travel Oregon, with no strings attached. It’s conceivable that group could ignore the governor’s promise completely. Yet the games promise to be important across the state. The 2021 games will be a boon to Eugene, and, really, to all of Oregon as visitors travel elsewhere in the state. Central Oregon, for example, may well see athletes training here before the games
Meanwhile, there are those in the Legislature who would divert at least some of the tax to the state’s chronic low- and moderate-income housing problems. And while they may be right when they argue that some portion of the tourism tax should be spent on housing, that’s not a discussion for a Legislature that has fewer than 30 days left in the current session.
Brown needs to step up and push loudly and hard for HB 4047 and her promise. At the same time, lawmakers who wish to divert some of the tax should drop the idea of doing it this year, get their ducks in order and make a pitch during the 2021 legislative session.