The Washington state Senate has passed a measure aiming to relieve concerns over the recent car-tab fee increase for Sound Transit 3, a nearly $54 billion transportation initiative voters approved in November.
Numerous bills have been introduced in the House and Senate after widespread outrage over the formula used to calculate car-tab fees, which are based on a depreciation schedule that overvalues newer cars in parts of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
"People are really up in arms about these huge taxes. And yes I know they were told they would be taxed, but I don't think most people, and certainly not my constituents, recognized how heavy this tax would be," Senator Steve O'Ban, R-Tacoma, told KING 5. "Since they're not as accountable as they need to be, we need to make them accountable."
That's why O'Ban sponsored Senate Bill 5893. It would require Sound Transit to improve the accuracy of the valuation formula by determining it based on Kelley Blue Book values or National Automobile Dealers Association values, whichever is lower. It would also reduce the overall motor vehicle excise tax to no more than five-tenths of 1 percent of the value of a vehicle.
If Sound Transit refuses to make the changes, O'Ban's bill would prohibit the Department of Licensing from collecting Sound Transit taxes.
The measure passed on a 25-24 floor vote in the Senate Thursday and now heads to the House for consideration. The Senate also unanimously passed the transportation budget Thursday and awaits action in the House.
Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, had proposed a "middle ground" fix that would offer taxpayers a credit equal to the difference between the MSRP-based formula Sound Transit currently uses to calculate car-tab fees and a more updated formula based on a car's fair market value. However, that amendment failed.
“They (the Republicans) clearly understand there’s a problem, yet it seems they’re more interested in grandstanding and pointing fingers than providing tax relief," Liias said in a statement Thursday.
House Democrats previously said they would not support the bill, including Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, who chairs the House Transportation Committee. Clibborn worries the legislation would jeopardize Sound Transit funding and possibly delay projects as a result.
"Most of the things I've seen coming out of the Senate are just a way to take Sound Transit apart, and that isn't really what we're trying to do. People voted to do these projects," Clibborn said in an earlier interview.
That means the bill is not likely to go anywhere in the Democrat-controlled house.