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$30 car tabs, Tim Eyman, I-976
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The real reason Washington voters approved $30 car tabs

The saga for $30 car tabs in Washington continues. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The battle over $30 car tabs in Washington state culminated in a decisive vote to approve the measure in November’s primary election. But what had voters so passionate about the issue in the first place?

I-976 fallout: Gov. Inslee postpones all upcoming WSDOT projects

“The truth of the matter is this: We’re constantly being taxed constantly,” said KIRO Nights co-host Gee Scott. “The cost of living is continuing to go up. Government is growing. Taxes are growing. Cost of living is growing. Homelessness is growing. And there’s one thing that’s not growing: Living wages.”

A recent study found that almost half of Seattle homes pull in six-figures in income, in a city where it costs roughly $73,000 a year to live “comfortably.”

For the large swathe of households who don’t pull in that much money, higher car tabs can stretch a household’s budget.

“It’s not about, ‘I need to be able to pay $30 tabs.’ No, man — it’s just every little bit counts for that family. Every little bit,” Gee noted.

For Gee — and many other families — that had the debate over I-976 transcending political boundaries.

“This isn’t liberal; this isn’t conservative,” he described. “This isn’t about ‘I want things my way.’ I look at everybody as a whole, and there are a lot of people that are struggling.”

The other side of the $30 car tab battle came from those who cite the potentially catastrophic effect it could have on transit both in the Puget Sound region and statewide.

The next steps for Sound Transit in the wake of I-976

Barring a reversal in court, Sound Transit stands to lost almost $7 billion in revenue between 2021 and 2041. The Washington State Office of Financial Management estimates that it will also slash $1.9 billion in state revenue over the next six years, as well as $2.3 billion in local governments in that same period. That includes a $35 million funding gap in Seattle’s own budget.

As for how to close that financial gap, Gee has one creative — albeit controversial — idea:

“You guys don’t like it, but it keeps coming up: State income tax.”

Listen to KIRO Nights with Gee Scott and Aaron Mason weekdays from 7-10 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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