Senate majority unites behind measure to stop unfair Sound Transit taxes

New O’Ban-Rossi bill would prohibit state from collecting taxes for regional agency

Today the Senate’s Republican-led Majority Coalition Caucus increased pressure on Sound Transit to treat its taxpayers fairly by proposing that the state Department of Licensing stop collecting the transit agency’s inflated car-tab taxes.

“If Sound Transit wants to tax people on a false vehicle value, we won’t be collecting their fees for them,” explained O’Ban, the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5893. “Like the public, we expect Sound Transit to use honest vehicle valuations.”

Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville and chair of the Majority Coalition Caucus, said her constituents are demanding action while the Legislature is in session. The 2017 regular session will end April 23.

“There is such a strong public outcry for relief, that we simply cannot wait,” said Becker.

Many taxpayers within Sound Transit’s taxing district, which spans most of Pierce, King and Snohomish counties, have been shocked to see their vehicle registration fees soar as a result of the so-called ST3 ballot proposal, approved in November. It has since been discovered that the regional transit authority is using an outdated and unrealistic method to arrive at vehicle valuations used to calculate car-tab fees.

“Already 21 of our members are co-sponsoring this bill, Becker points out. “That much support right out of the box shows how important we think it is to immediately hold Sound Transit accountable and bring car-tab valuations in line with the real-world value of vehicles.”

Nearly every member of the Senate majority, including Sen. Curtis King, who is transportation-committee chair, has endorsed the legislation. It would prohibit the state Department of Licensing from collecting a motor vehicle excise tax that is not based on the Kelley Blue Book method or the National Automobile Dealers Association method, whichever is lower. In effect, Sound Transit would have to collect its own ST3-related MVET taxes unless it abandons the current valuation method that over-values cars, resulting in significantly higher car tab fees.

“What Sound Transit is doing is just blatantly unfair and dishonest,” said Sen. Dino Rossi, R-Sammamish. “They are using a car’s MSRP, or manufacturer’s suggested retail price, which no one ever pays. Everybody would sell their car tomorrow for what Sound Transit is saying their vehicles are worth.”

The legislation also would require that any contracts with DOL regarding the collection of MVET taxes must provide DOL with payment sufficient to cover the costs applicable to the tax collection process.

“I’ve had soldiers tell me they were barely scraping by and Sound Transit’s new car-tab taxes have them wondering how they’re going to make it,” said King, R-Yakima. “I’m looking for a fair solution where charges are based on actual value and I hope this gives Sound Transit the incentive to get there.”

Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn, says that Sound Transit’s inflated valuations hit his Pierce County constituents especially hard, give the county’s rejection of ST3.

“My district didn’t vote for ST3, so I have to work even harder to help reign in Sound Transit’s insatiable appetite for new revenue and protect the taxpayers,” Fortunato said.