State lawmakers and Sound Transit should find a way to fix the flawed valuation formula used to calculate the agency’s vehicle excise taxes.
ONE of the tasks Washington lawmakers should complete this month is forcing Sound Transit to fix its flawed vehicle-valuation formula.
Widespread outrage about the skewed formula — which overvalues used cars when calculating car-tab fees collected in parts of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties — has prompted a bipartisan, bicameral response.
“You name the issue, this has topped the level and degree of concern and anger, unlike any issue I’ve had here in the Legislature, and I know I’m not alone,” said state Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place.
Numerous bills were introduced in response to these concerns. Lawmakers should find a compromise solution that requires Sound Transit to improve the accuracy of the valuation formula.
Updating the formula would not change the vehicle excise tax rate in Sound Transit’s financial plan. Nor should it significantly reduce the agency’s ability to repay bonds, especially if the change mostly smooths out the schedule of depreciation.
Lawmakers should find outside perspective before they are cowed by the transit agency’s hyperbolic response that this ship has sailed and up to $6 billion of ST3’s $54 billion in funding could be jeopardized.
Find a way to make the valuation formula more accurate, without seriously risking the project’s funding.
This fix is in Sound Transit’s best interest. Using a faulty valuation formula erodes trust and support for the agency.
It shouldn’t launch the most expensive transportation project in state history with many of its 2.9 million constituents enraged that it’s using a bad formula to calculate a secondary source of its tax revenue. Most revenue comes from sales taxes.
Improving the vehicle-valuation formula is a small price to pay for the goodwill and trust Sound Transit needs as it embarks on decades of enormous, costly and disruptive construction projects across the region.