Emmanuel Son, Staff Writer
On Nov. 4, 2019, Washington passed Initiative 976, which would reduce car tab fees to $30. Anti-tax activist Tim Eyman originally proposed the initiative, which states that, “State and local motor vehicle license fees may not exceed $30 per year for motor vehicles.” However, some across the state claim that the initiative is unconstitutional, alleging that voters did not understand what they were voting for.
Despite people voting to approve I-976, a King County judge granted an injunction to prevent the measure from taking effect back in November. The case is now waiting to be heard by the Washington Supreme Court.
Washington voters initially passed Eyman’s $30 car tabs initiative in 2000. There were no constitutional challenges to the initiative at that time, and it was implemented successfully.
Initiative 976 would cap taxes paid through annual vehicle registration at $30. If the initiative were to be implemented, the move would take away state and local government’s ability to add additional taxes and fees. Aside from Seattle, other cities and local governments around the state have been suing to stop the initiative, including King County and Garfield County Transit.
Reasons for trying to stop the measure includes concerns over reducing funds needed to pay for public transportation and road maintenance, according to Oregon Live. The state Office of Financial Management says it would reduce revenue by $4 billion dollars over the next six years. Other concerns included King County having to cut 110,000 bus hours and Garfield County having to cut transportation out of citizens’ necessities.
Because of the delay, Republicans in the state have been at work making sure to not only end the delay, but to also ensure that the original measure is implemented, given that people approve it. Phil Fortunato, R- Auburn, has sponsored Senate bill 6350, which would limit state and local taxes, fees, and remaining charges relating to vehicles.
Fortunato says that his bill is simple in nature and will not be challenged in court. “It removes any ambiguity about multiple subjects,” he said in a statement to Seattle Weekly.
A companion bill was proposed by Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor, and Rep. Jim Walsh, R- Aberdeen, House Bill 2227. Similar, to Senate Bill 6350, House Bill 2227 would limit state and local car tab fees.
Republicans have been critical of Governor Jay Inslee’s current policies regarding transportation. Rep. Andrew Barkis, ranking minority member on the House Transportation Committee claims it is the goal of many state Republicans to put policy over politics.
“Washingtonians have spoken on car tabs and it’s the job of the legislature to respond. This means implementing 30-dollar car tabs, establishing a permanent account for preservation and maintenance, and setting priorities as WSDOT. We have put solutions on the table that would respect the will of voters and meet future transportation needs,” Barkis said to My Northwest.
“The voters have clearly spoken on the issue, and the Legislature should honor the will of the people,” added Young.
While Republicans in the state have presented their solutions, Democrats have come up with other plans to cut Sound-Transit car-tab fees. Senate Bill 6606 sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias, D- Lynwood, would change the way that car-tab taxes are calculated.
The bill is rather concerned with regional transit authorities. This bill would also give vehicle users in King, Snohomish, and Pierce county a modest break. The bill is also of Eyman’s I-976. Although voters approved the initiative, 54 percent of those in the Sound Transit Taxing District who pay higher car-tab taxes rejected the measure according to analysis, the Seattle Times reports. Liias’ proposal would require a two-thirds majority to pass, and thus Republicans support, as it would repeal areas of I-976.