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Car tabs, sound transit, No on I-976
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Dave Boze: No on I-976 campaign forgets how popular $30 tabs are

A $30 car tabs measure continues to prove controversial. (MyNorthwest photo)

The No on I-976 campaign seems to have attached Tim Eyman’s name to the campaign — all of the No on I-976 commercials I’ve seen say things like, “Say NO to Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976.”

The strategy makes perfect sense. He’s a guy who is incredibly unpopular in many circles, so if you attach an unpopular person’s name to an initiative, you hope you will make the initiative itself unpopular.

But the reality is, car tab fees are not popular. People don’t like paying huge car tab fees and being nickle-and-dimed to death. I know I don’t, and I don’t exactly buy the newest of cars. It’s one of my many environmental moves. There’s already a perfectly good vehicle out there, so why bother creating a new one quite yet?

Even with my old car, however, the car tabs make me feel like I’m paying rent on my own car. You’ve already purchased it, but you have to pay this high fee every year to keep driving it. And this is after you’re already essentially paying rent on your property with high property taxes.

Dori: Hybrid owners now have to pay $75 charging station fee with tab renewal

Here is what I-976 would actually do, according to Mariya Frost, the head of the Coles Center for Transportation and one of my colleagues at the Washington Policy Center.

  1. Lower annual vehicle registration renewals to $30 a year.
  2. Drivers pay additional car tab taxes and fees, many of which Initiative 976 would reduce or repeal entirely.
  3. Transportation Benefit Districts (TBDs) would no longer have the authority to impose vehicle fees.
  4. Sound Transit’s entire 1.1 percent motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) would be conditionally repealed. If Sound Transit does not comply, the total MVET would be reduced to 0.5 percent.
  5. The initiative would primarily reduce the money drivers pay for public transportation at the state and local levels.
  6. Of the approximate $4.2 billion fiscal impact to state and local revenues over six years, 35 percent would come out of the state Multimodal Account, which largely funds public transportation, and 46 percent would affect Sound Transit. Eight percent would come out of the state Motor Vehicle Fund, which exclusively funds roads and bridges.

By the way, if you’re looking to find out what each of this year’s ballot initiatives would do, there is a citizen’s guide on the Washington Policy Center’s website. It doesn’t tell you how to vote, just what these initiatives would do if approved.

As a lifelong Washington resident, I see our population growing, and it’s very clear to me that we should be building additional lanes. The population was much smaller when I was a kid, and we’re still driving along the same-sized freeways. You have to crisscross lanes just to get through the biggest chokepoint in the state, Seattle.

Everybody in the No on I-976 movement is freaking out about roads, bridges, and earthquake relief. Nobody seems to care about the opportunity cost of so many things like Sound Transit that are not actually going to relieve traffic. The money is diverted into those pipeline projects that are politically popular amongst the elite, but won’t actually relieve traffic for you and me. With those plans in effect, we’re going to see more congestion for decades to come.

The No on I-976 folks are not concerned about that diversion of funds, but they are concerned about money going back in your pockets.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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