Seattle council pushes back against $30 car tabs initiative

Oct 7, 2019, 8:41 AM | Updated: Oct 8, 2019, 7:13 pm

Executive Constantine...

Tim Eyman says he is not worried about legal challenges to 976. (Seattle Channel)

(Seattle Channel)

The Seattle City Council unanimously voted in favor of a resolution Monday expressing its disapproval for I-976, an initiative from anti-tax activist Tim Eyman that would reduce car tabs to $30 per vehicle.

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

“This is a government resolution telling voters how to vote on a citizen initiative,” Eyman said at the council’s Monday meeting. “It is an arrogant improper use of tax dollars. Voters do not like politicians telling them how they should vote. This hasn’t been a public hearing, it has been a politician hearing.”

Matthew Lang, with the Transit Riders Union and a member of the No on I-976 Coalition, countered Eyman’s argument. He spoke in favor of the council resolution.

“(This initiative) is going to be extremely harmful for all people in Washington state,” Lang said. “Bus, bike, pedestrian and rail and other multimodal cuts in our city will be extremely harmful to the members of the Transit Riders Union who use all those modes of transportation. Workers are going to suffer because of this initiative. Tens of thousands of jobs in the construction industry are going to be cut as we stop building roads, as we stop fixing pot holes.”

The resolution states that I-976, “would undermine progress made by The City of Seattle, Sound Transit, and the State of Washington in building a more equitable and sustainable transportation system.” The initiative would greatly reduce the amount of funds already slated for transportation, including the voter-approved Sound Transit 3.

ST3 has come under scrutiny, and lawsuits, over the controversial method it uses to calculate car tab fees — at a much higher valuation than any other source. Proponents argue that voters were made aware of the costs before voting. Eyman said that his initiative is leading in polls throughout Washington state. He claims that in Seattle, I-976 has 52 percent approval.

“Those 52 percent of Seattle voters that are in favor of this measure aren’t doing it because they like me, they find that it is completely dishonest to be taxing people on a $10,000 car as if it was worth $25,000,” Eyman said. “….because it’s the government itself taking more money than it should from the taxpayers, all we are getting are excuses. You’re saying ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s dishonest. It doesn’t matter if it is artificially inflated because we are spending the money, that we shouldn’t be taking from you, on really good stuff.”

Lang further countered Eyman by noting that he recently purchased a 2019 model car.

“And I’m going to have to pay about $450 this year in my car tabs, and I’m OK with that because I have the privilege to be able to do that,” Lang said. “And I understand that access to transportation is one of the biggest markers for poverty in the country. If you don’t have access to transportation, you can’t get to work, you can’t get around the city. We have to be able to provide these opportunities for all people in our city.”

Impacts of I-976

Sponsored by District 5 Councilmember Debora Juarez, the Seattle City Council resolution urges voters to oppose I-976 on the November general election ballot, claiming that it would take upwards of $60 million per year away from crucial safety and infrastructure funding for Seattle and 61 other cities, as well as money directed towards “reducing crowding and expanding access to bus service.”

Opponents have estimated the $30 car tabs measure would wipe out over $4 billion total in state, regional, and local transportation funding over the next decade.

Sound Transit estimates a $20 billion impact through 2041 if I-976 passes, the combination of collecting $6.95 billion less in car tab revenues, and shelling out $13 billion more in higher interest costs in future transactions. Officials also forecast being forced to delay or cancel various transportation projects.

Juarez’s resolution calculates a $24 million annual impact to Seattle Department of Transportation funding for expanded bus services, as well as $8 million a year dedicated to pothole repair, neighborhood street maintenance, protected bike lanes, pedestrian crossings, transit corridors, and more.

Can Washington survive $30 car tab measure if it passes?

It also claims that I-976 would torpedo $20 billion in funding needed for West Seattle and Ballard light rail construction, as part of a larger threat posed to ST3.

“Puget Sound residents have voted to tax themselves to address their own transportation needs by building light rail for traffic relief, improving safety and maintenance of the existing right-of-way, and expanding bus access,” it reads.

Eyman will reportedly be at Monday’s council session to defend the measure in person during the public comment period.

MyNorthwest’s Dyer Oxley contributed to this article.

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Seattle council pushes back against $30 car tabs initiative