With majority Democrats favoring more modest changes, the Republican proposals to dramatically cut Sound Transit taxes and alter the agency’s leadership face very long odds.
Republicans in Olympia continue to push for drastic cuts to Sound Transit and sweeping changes to the agency’s leadership, even as the majority Democrats move forward with their own more modest cuts to car-tab taxes that help fund the transit agency.
Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, and Rep. Mark Harmsworth, R-Mill Creek, held a news conference Thursday to push for even greater cuts in car-tab taxes, which would mean billions in lost revenue for Sound Transit as it works to build a regional light-rail system over the next 25 years.
With Democrats controlling both houses in Olympia, O’Ban’s and Harmsworth’s proposals have slim chance of progressing.
Sound Transit’s formula for calculating car tab taxes — which was approved by the Legislature — leads to inflated values, and higher taxes, for newer cars.
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The Democratic-controlled House last month passed a bill (HB 2201) to move to a more accurate formula. That bill would cost Sound Transit $780 million in direct revenue loss and about $2 billion, including increased debt costs.
But, O’Ban said, that bill isn’t enough.
“The most consistent email and call we get is, ‘When are you going to reduce our car tab taxes?’ ” O’Ban said. “It hasn’t waned since last year.”
O’Ban’s proposal (SB 6303) would not only change the car-tab formula, but would slash the tax rate — which voters approved in 2016 — by more than 50 percent.
O’Ban and Harmsworth also touted bills that would require the direct election of Sound Transit’s governing board (SB 6301) and would require the agency to get reauthorization from voters if it appears to be over budget (SB 6465).
Sen. Steve Hobbs, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, pointed out that O’Ban previously voted to authorize both Sound Transit’s taxes and the way it calculates car tabs.
Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, said he supports a more modest fix, similar to the one that passed the House.
“Sen. O’Ban’s bills are unthoughtful sledgehammers that don’t solve the problem, create new problems and do not meet the promise we made to voters,” Hobbs said.