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Everett council opposes initiative that would cap car-tab fees at $30

The Everett City Council approved a resolution to officially oppose an initiative that will appear on the November ballot to reduce car-tab fees.

EVERETT, Wash. — The Everett City Council unanimously approved a resolution to oppose an initiative that, if approved by voters, would cap car-tab fees at $30 a year. 

Councilmember Jeff Moore was not present for the vote. 

Enough signatures were gathered to put Initiative 976 on the November ballot. It would give voters another chance to cap the fees, which increased for people living within Sound Transit's taxing district. 

Voters approved the $30 cap in 1999 and 2002. The Sound Transit 3 (ST3) measure approved by voters in 2016 raised the annual fees to pay for public transportation projects, including building light rail up to Everett. 

The resolution states that Sound Transit would lose approximately $7 billion for ST3 projects, "which would put delivery of light rail to Everett at extremely grave risk." It would also put Everett's Transportation Benefit District, which provides "more than half" of the city's $3 million yearly street overlay budget, in jeopardy, according to the resolution. There would also be statewide impacts that would be felt in Everett and throughout Snohomish County, including nearly $2 billion lost over six years in funding for highways, state patrol, and other investments, according to the resolution. 

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Everett City Councilmember Paul Roberts, who also sits on the Sound Transit Board, pointed out that ST3 is the step "across the county line" into Snohomish County. He said light rail will give commuters a fighting chance at a more reliable commute.

The initiative by anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman follows the sticker shock many drivers felt after the passage of ST3 when car-tab fees sometimes doubled or tripled. 

Eyman said voters were not aware how high their car tab fees would go under the proposal.

“A lot of the things they (voters) were told turned out not to be true,” Eyman said earlier this year. “Now that you know the truth, now that you know how obnoxiously expensive your car tabs are, do you think this is fair?”

Opponents of I-976 said the initiative is not a solution. 

No on I-976 Chair Andrew Villeneuve said opponents are worried voters will support the measure without thinking about the impact. He said capping tabs at $30 would gut voter-approved transportation projects from light rail expansion to improvements, to Amtrak and rail routes in Western Washington.

"If Tim Eyman gets his way these communities will be mired in traffic congestion for decades with no alternative to crowded roads,” said Villeneuve. “People will either be forced to drive, or they'll have to move somewhere where there is transit service if they want an alternative."

Under the voter-approved plan, ST3 would add 62 miles of light rail and complete the 116-mile regional system reaching from Everett to Tacoma, and Seattle to the Eastside. 

The resolution in front of the Everett City Council came a day after a groundbreaking ceremony for the Lynnwood extension. 

Groundbreaking on the Lynnwood Link extension marks the first portion of Sound Transit’s light rail service that will reach Snohomish County. 

Service is expected to begin in Everett in 2036.

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