Lawmaker eyes Brexit-inspired plan to rescue Pierce County from car tabs, ST3 taxes
With the future of a $30 car tab measure hanging in the balance while a court battle over I-976 continues to play out, one state lawmaker is taking matters into his hands on behalf of Pierce County.
Republican state Senator Steve O’Ban — a longtime critic of Sound Transit — has had proposals for the past several legislative sessions to address high car tabs that came with ST3.
This session is no different.
“I call this my Trexit bill. Remember Brexit? Britain wanted to get out of the EU with because of its bureaucracy and high tax burden … I think of it as a similar notion,” O’Ban said. “I want Pierce County to be able to exit from the RTA, Sound Transit’s Regional Transit Authority with respect to light rail.”
O’Ban says with more than 66 percent of Pierce County voters approving I-976, and a majority voting against ST3, he has no doubt most of his constituents would back the move.
“It’s clear that Pierce County voters do not see the value of light rail, nor would I expect them to because I think it’s a system designed for Seattle and parts of King County; it probably serves their interests but certainly doesn’t serve the interests of my county,” O’Ban explained.
“So I want to pull my county out of light rail, essentially out of ST3, [and] still pay for Sounder and express bus service. I think people see the value on that and we had those before ST3,” O’Ban continued.
But when it comes to light rail and ST3, he says Pierce County voters have consistently been clear in their opposition, and not just regarding the car tab tax.
“My bill would take Pierce County out, and that would relieve it of the significant car tab tax increase, the sales tax increase, and the new property tax that Pierce Countians have to pay,” O’Ban said.
He says the bill was actually inspired by an ST3 supporter.
“The idea frankly came from a columnist for the Seattle Times who is a big Sound Transit proponent, and he said ‘why do we have to keep messing with Pierce County and Snohomish County when they clearly don’t want this light rail? Let’s re-draw the RTA to basically just encompass King County.’ And I thought he’s right, so let’s do just that.” Oban said. “Let’s pull Pierce out, and if Snohomish County wants to jump in on this bill that’s great too, they can be part of Trexit,” said O’Ban.
That columnist was Danny Westneat at the Seattle Times, who made this recommendation a few days after the November election and approval of I-976.
“It’s time to cut those two counties out of the light-rail project. It’s not worth the endless political battling and decades of wasted resources on repeated votes just like this one,” Westneat suggested in the column.
O’Ban hopes other Seattle Democrats may agree and help get his bill a hearing in the session that begins next week, but it’s not clear how likely that is.