PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – TriMet and Oregon’s smaller transit agencies want lawmakers to let them spend payroll tax dollars on basic operations instead of expanding service and converting diesel fleets to lower-emission vehicles.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that under a  2017 transportation bill, Oregon lawmakers added a 0.1% tax on employer payrolls statewide to enhance public transit.

But agencies now say they need the money to shore up their core budgets and avoid layoffs.

Transit agencies lobbied lawmakers on that front Monday during a legislative hearing of the Joint Committee on Transportation.

TriMet, the Eugene-area’s Lane Transit District and the nonprofit Oregon Transit Association told lawmakers COVID-19’s effect on ridership will likely continue for months if not years.

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