Financial & Legal Considerations in Coastal Oregon
Ben Franklin famously coined that nothing is certain but death and taxes, and Oregon’s laws bring unique perspectives to both inevitabilities. Relocating to one of Oregon’s coastal cities is an exciting move. New Oregonians will be greeted with charming gardens, a diverse music culture, a bustling startup economy, an explosive food scene and opportunities for fishing and sailing on the Pacific. Oregon is the ninth largest state in the country and is home to just over four million people. There are some key financial and legal considerations to note for those making the move to the Pacific Northwest, especially in regard to housing, taxes and political leanings in the state.
Every state can claim its own quirky and outdated laws, and Oregon is no different. Weddings held on roller skating rinks are forbidden. Canned corn is an illegal form of fishing bait. In the town of Marion, walking backward while eating a doughnut is banned. While these prohibitions may have little consequence for the average Oregonian, there are legal differences to note when moving from another state. The Oregon coast is considered public land, so the public has full access to beaches. The state also has automatic voter registration and facilitates mail-in ballots as its main voting mechanism. Oregon supports the Death with Dignity Act, does not limit access to abortions, allows a wide interpretation of “free speech” and was the first state to legalize small amounts of marijuana. Oregon, like much of the Pacific Northwest, tends to pilot more progressive policies that then spread through the United States.
Standard of Living
Outside of current pandemic numbers, Oregon had a relatively low unemployment rate in recent years, often less than 4%. The Beaver State is home to several big-name employers, including Nike and Columbia Sportswear. And there are major investments in health care and education throughout the state. Oregon’s coastal cities, like many major cities along the West Coast, have a higher cost of living. Though, rent has not quite skyrocketed as it has in nearby hot spots like San Francisco or Seattle. Portland’s average monthly rent tops about $1,500, though many other cities along the coast, including Coos Bay and Newport, require monthly rent closer to $1,100.
Homeowners have witnessed soaring home prices, especially in the Portland area, though many coastal towns report average home costs over $300,000. As more individuals relocate to its alluring coastal landscape, the state’s housing supply has not kept up with the demand. From 2018-2019, many homeowners saw their home values increase by double digits. Those relocating to Oregon can feel confident in real estate investments along the coast.
No State Sales Tax
Taxes look a little different in Oregon — the state income tax is one of the highest in the country at 9.90%, though property taxes are somewhat average. Conversely, Oregon is one of only five states that does not have a state sales tax (along with Alaska, Delaware, Montana and New Hampshire). Interestingly, Oregon’s southern neighbors in California pay the highest state sales tax in the country — a whopping 7.25% state sales tax. However, in today’s booming online economy, it is important to remember Oregon’s standard does not preclude consumers from paying taxes on items purchased in other states.
Oregon has a vehicle use tax. This tax is applied to vehicles purchased outside of the state. The tax is calculated at .005% of the retail cost of the vehicle, but it is required in order to receive the registration and title for vehicles moving into Oregon. Portland residents are also required to pay an additional transportation tax that funds the TriMet commuter rail and buses throughout the metro area. While on the topic of transportation, new residents should know that Oregon, like New Jersey, does not allow drivers to pump their own gas in densely populated areas; given the notorious rainy weather in the state, this might be a lovely perk.
Oregon, especially along its coast, leans politically blue. But residents, no matter their affiliation, are environmentally aware. With an economy that so heavily relies on its seafood and nature tourism, Oregon follows California on many of its climate change initiatives. Recently, the state’s legislature has debated an economy-wide emissions reduction plan. These initiatives can invigorate the market for clean energy, electric vehicles and carbon offset programs that benefit communities. Unsurprisingly, these bills have sparked dramatic political discourse, as lawmakers worry about the long-term cost these sweeping changes may have on taxpayers.