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Senate passes car tab relief bill, now moves to House

The bill now moves to the state House for further consideration.

The Washington State Senate passed legislation Thursday to update the way cars are valued for taxes and help alleviate the recent cost increase for car tabs.

Senate Bill 5955, which is sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, passed 31-14 and would change the car tab calculation scale to more accurately reflect the car’s true value. The bill would also provide credit refunds to cover the difference between the new and old formulas to taxpayers who purchased car-tabs before September 1, 2018.

"We have heard clearly from both taxpayers and transportation advocates that we need to come to a workable solution that respects the will of the voters to fund Sound Transit projects and provides needed relief to car tab purchasers. This legislation finds that balance," Sen. Kuderer said.

Car-tab prices soared by about $80 last year for a car valued at $10,000 after voters approved Sound Transit 3 in fall 2016. The $54 billion transit package will expand mass transit in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties with light rail, commuter rail, and bus connections.

To ensure funding for the ST3 projects, Sound Transit will be exempt from the sales and use tax offset fee for up to $518 million. The fee exemption will be lifted and funds dispersed to the Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Account if Sound Transit can complete the projects in the timeframe approved by voters.

Senator Steve O'Ban, R-Pierce County, says that would take money away from a fund that benefits education.

"This fund should have gone for children and vulnerable adults. I just think that is crazy," he said.

O'Ban also said, "It feels like this was more about protecting Sound Transit than it was really protecting the taxpayers. They have been demanding real relief, and I wish we could have given them the substantial relief they deserved."

"I think we've reached an even compromise on projects as well as car tab relief for folks in these counties who have been saddled with unfair costs. I applaud Sen. Kuderer for her work on this issue and for bringing people together to deliver real relief on behalf of her constituents,” Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, said.

The bill now moves to the state House for further consideration.

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