Portland Area Loses $1 Billion as Wealthy Taxpayers Flee Crime, Drugs and Surging Homeless Population

Craig Bannister | August 7, 2023
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As taxpaying residents fled Portland, Oregon to escape rising crime, drugs, and a growing homeless problem, Portland’s county lost $1 billion in revenue between 2020 and 2021, an analysis of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data reveals.

The taxpayers who left Multnomah County, in which Portland is located, were mostly high-income earners, driving down average earnings and resulting in a record $1 billion of lost revenue, analysis conducted by OregonLive.com found.

Loss of personal income tax revenue is extremely harmful to Oregon’s financial situation. Without a state sales tax, Oregon counts on personal income tax revenue to provide for 86% of the state’s General Fund.

Multnomah County has reportedly suffered the largest loss of population of any Oregon county, according to Census data. Portland alone shed about three percent of the its population from 2020 to 2022, the sixth largest decline among the 50 largest U.S. cities.

According to the 2022 Portland Insights Survey conducted for the city, respondents cited Homelessness (44.5%), Cost of Living (21.8%), and Community Safety (19.5%) as Portland’s three greatest challenges.

What’s more, nearly three of four residents (72.1%) said that they don’t “feel safe walking during the NIGHT in the central city.” And, their concern appears well-founded, as an analysis of crime statistics concluded that 99% of U.S. neighborhoods are safer than Portland. Additionally, Portland residents are more than twice as likely to be victims of violent crime than are all Oregon residents, taken together.

Violent crime is increasing in Portland. Between 2019 and 2022, the number of both homicides and shooting incidents tripled. The 101 homicides in 2022 set an annual record-high for the city.

Drugs also pose an increasing threat, which has been exacerbated by the 2020 passage of Measure 110, which made Oregon the only state in the U.S. to decriminalize hard drugs, such as heroin, methamphetamine and (until earlier this year) fentanyl.

The harm done by the measure’s passage appears to have been both swift and brutal, The Washington Examiner explains:

“Since then, Oregon has become the state with the second-highest rate of substance use disorder and sees more than two deaths per day from opioid overdoses, according to a government audit of the consequences of Measure 110.

“According to preliminary Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, Oregon's overdose deaths increased 6.76% from December 2021 to December 2022. The national increase was 0.5%.”

From 2019 to 2021, the number of unintentional opioid overdose deaths in Oregon skyrocketed from 280 to 745, according to state health department statistics.

Even with the crime and drug epidemics, Portland residents rate the homeless crisis the worst problem facing the city.

Indeed, the number of people living on the street in Multnomah County, which includes Portland, rose 29% from January 2022 to January 2023

In all of Oregon, the homeless population jumped 23% from 2020 to 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2022 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report.

The homeless problem in Portland has gotten so bad that disabled residents were forced to file a federal class action lawsuit against the city, alleged that it violated the American with Disabilities Act by allowing the homeless, as well as their tents and their encampments, to obstruct sidewalks. On May 31, a settlement was reached and approved, requiring the city of Portland to take a series of specific steps to clear the sidewalks for safe passage.