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Fight over car tab costs no longer split along party lines

"Sticker shock" is not a viable excuse for the public anymore. (MyNorthwest)

The fight over car tab fees in Olympia has been largely fought by Republicans. But Democrats have now entered the fray.

Buyer’s remorse: Fee increase on car tabs is ‘our fault’

The Democratic-controlled House is evaluating two bills that relate to Sound Transit and higher car tab fees. Those higher fees are caused by the agency’s use of an outdated formula to determine vehicle values.

Democrats vs. car tab fees

House Bill 2147 would reduce car tab fees by forcing the agency to use a more recent method of determining how much a car owner must pay every year.

Sound Transit had the opportunity to use a more driver-friendly depreciation schedule when it created the Sound Transit 3 tax proposal, but it opted to use an older version. The reason, Sound Transit CFO Brian McCartan told lawmakers, was the old method was easier.

“It was seen as clean or simple, or to be able to have a single evaluation schedule that was used, and because the prior schedule is required to be used that was the way the statute was written — was that the ST3 collections would use the schedule that was in place at the time that the bonds were issued,” he said.

Huh? Sound Transit CFO’s explanation confuses car tab issue even more

In addition to a bill that would likely decrease car tab fees for those living within the Sound Transit taxing district, House Bill 2150 would add more accountability to taxpayers by requiring the agency to keep taxpayers abreast on current projects. That would force the agency to send information related to what projects are in scope, on time, and on budget and which are not.

“This act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or support of the state government and its existing public institutions…” the bill reads.

Republicans vs. car tab fees

Republicans have introduced similar bills, one would require the Sound Transit Board of Directors be elected, instead of appointed. Other legislation has included an effort to make motor vehicle values “based on base model Kelly Blue Book values, or national automobile dealers association values, whichever is lower.”

On Thursday, Sen. Steve O’Ban introduced a bill that he says is “supported by the entire Republican caucus” and that would stop the Washington State Department of Licensing from collecting Sound Transit’s “Unlawful, inflated” motor vehicle excise tax.

Whether any of the proposals will become law is anyone’s guess, but with politicians on both sides of the aisle fighting for a more fair car tab tax, there may be some hope for sticker-shocked vehicle owners.

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