Over the next decade, House Bill 2201 returns $780 million to taxpayers by paying back overpayments. It requires greater Sound Transit accountability while keeping voter-approved light-rail projects on track.
THE public needs relief from unfair car-tab valuations and daily traffic jams.
That’s why both chambers of the Legislature should support a bipartisan solution to the car-tab problem while honoring the will of voters for light-rail expansion.
Last November, voters approved Sound Transit 3, a comprehensive plan for light rail and other mass transit options throughout Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.
To pay for those projects, voters approved an increase in car tab taxes from .3 to 1.1 percent of a car’s estimated value. It’s not the job of a statewide legislature immediately to second-guess a region’s vote. But the Legislature does have an oversight role to make sure that the car valuation system is accurate.
There’s a better system, established in 2006 by a joint House-Senate task force. That updated schedule more accurately reflects car values and tracks closely with Kelley Blue Book, according to an analysis last month by The Seattle Times. The Legislature should have required use of this 2006 valuation system.
House Bill 2201 fixes the car valuation problem by paying taxpayers back the difference between the 1996 and the 2006 schedules. It’s a bipartisan plan that passed the House of Representatives on a 64-33 vote.
Over the next decade, House Bill 2201 returns $780 million to taxpayers by paying back overpayments. It requires greater Sound Transit accountability while keeping voter-approved light rail projects on track.
Ultimately, every House representative — Democrat and Republican — who represents Sound Transit taxpayers voted for House Bill 2201.
There are certainly those in the House who wish there were not such significant cuts to Sound Transit, and there are those who wish for more cuts to mass transit. But this is about fixing a problem, not re-litigating light rail or thwarting the will of voters. So why does it seem like Senate Republicans are taking their eye off that goal?
Before this fix, Senate Republicans said car valuation overcharging was the issue in the “car-tab controversy.” Yet the Senate refused to allow a vote on House Bill 2201.
Instead, Senate Republicans now want to re-litigate light rail. In a straight partisan vote, Republicans proposed slashing the voter-approved initiative and dismantling light rail by several billion dollars with even more tax dollars going to added debt services.
This would both derail the voter-approved plan and redirect billions in tax dollars to Wall Street investors instead of taxpayers or light rail. It’s a purely partisan bill, with costs of the first and second versions estimated at between $5 billion and $12 billion. This is neither affordable nor viable.
So why waste time on a non-solution?
Senate Republicans claimed the car-valuation system was the problem that needed fixing. Many of the same senators who voted two years ago to use the outdated 1996 car valuation schedule are now preoccupied with blaming Sound Transit for the valuation system that senators authorized.
Our job in Olympia is to solve problems, not create new ones. There’s no point in stirring the pot and treating this issue like a political football.
The public is tired of politics as usual. We should leave political games for the other Washington and focus on the immediate relief taxpayers deserve on car tabs.
Please contact your local lawmakers and tell them you support House Bill 2201, the bipartisan House car-tab fix.