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Car tab relief bill makes progress in Olympia


Washington drivers have a reason to celebrate after lawmakers in Olympia passed a car tab relief bill.

State House Democrats announced Wednesday that HB 2201 passed in the House. The car tab relief bill alters how vehicles are valued when calculating fees under Sound Transit 3 — a very controversial point that arose when voters passed the transit plan.

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“It’s well past time for the Legislature to act and restore public confidence on this issue,” said Rep. Mike Pellicciotti. “The time for car tab debate is over and the time for legislative action to correct this car valuation issue is now. This bipartisan solution fixes car valuations and returns $780 million to tax payers to make up for these overpayments, while still keeping voter-approved light-rail projects on track.”

The Seattle Times reports that the $780 million would be a loss for Sound Transit over the next 11 years. It also notes that Sound Transit will experience “indirect financial impacts” adding up to nearly $2.3 billion through 2041.

Car tab relief

HB 2201 requires that car tab fees be calculated using the 2006 MVET method, which House Democrats say “closely tracks with Kelley Blue Book market value averages.” After Sound Transit 3 passed in 2016 with 54 percent of the vote, it was revealed that ST3 calculated car tabs through an outdated formula. This method inflated a car’s value and resulted in much higher fees — to the shock of drivers.

Representative Pellicciotti, D-Federal Way, sponsored the car tab relief bill that states Sound Transit “must  provide a credit against the motor vehicle excise tax due in an amount equal to the tax due calculated using the vehicle valuation schedule in chapter 82.44 RCW as it existed on January 1, 1996, less the tax otherwise due calculated using the vehicle valuation schedule in RCW 82.44.035, if the resulting difference is positive.”

The bill passed in the House with a 60-37 vote. It will now head to the Senate for consideration. A similar car tab bill passed the House in 2017, but it failed to gain approval in the Senate. Pellicciotti hopes that with the Senate’s new leadership this year, it has a chance to pass.

ST3 was slated to raise $54 billion to expand light rail to Everett and Tacoma. But the car tab relief bill has caused concern among some officials. Decreased car tab fees means less money for the transit plan, and could cause delays in projects.

Correction: An earlier version of this report erroneously stated that HB 2201 would value cars based on Kelley Blue Book.


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