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State lawmaker sets sights on ‘reasonable’ car tab relief

The debate over Washington's car tabs continues. (MyNorthwest photo)

A state Senate committee has approved a measure to provide car tab relief for Washington drivers.

Car tab relief debate heating up in Legislature

The bill comes from Democratic Sen. Marko Liias, who bills it as a middle ground between Sound Transit’s need for light rail funding laid out in ST3, and Tim Eyman’s controversial $30 car tab measure approved by voters last November.

“I feel like I’m stuck between Sound Transit and Tim Eyman, trying to find a pathway that’s reasonable and balances what my constituents are asking for,” said Liias, who represents Snohomish County voters in Lynnwood. Sixty-two percent of Snohomish voters voted in favor of I-976.

Liias hopes to bridge that gap with a proposal to reduce car tabs by using a “newer valuation table” that more closely adheres to the Kelley Blue Book, beginning in 2021. Currently, ST3 has that valuation table scheduled to take effect in 2028.

He estimates this will lower car tabs by roughly $30 to $40 in Sound Transit’s taxing district.

His proposal would also offer drivers in Sound Transit’s service zone the option to pay their car tabs off on monthly or quarterly payment plans.

Washington’s $30 car tab debacle could have been avoided

“I do think we need to provide more payment options to consumers,” Liias detailed in a recent news release. “When you pay your car loan, when you pay your auto insurance, you have options for how to pay those. I think it’s time to give our consumers, our taxpayers, those same options to pay quarterly, to pay monthly.”

Because it makes changes to I-976, Liias’s proposal will need a two-thirds majority for approval. That’s due to statutes in the state constitution regarding the modification of initiatives within two years of their passage.

It also isn’t subject to the normal timeline of other bills, because it exists under the “necessary to implement the budget” label. That will exempt it from usual cutoff deadlines that often hinder other legislation.

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