Senate passes real car-tab relief for third time

Senators Rossi, O’Ban call on House Democrats to ‘do the right thing’

For the third time this year, the Senate today passed a measure aimed at giving taxpayers real relief from Sound Transit’s controversial and inflated car-tab taxes. Senate Bill 5893, which passed the chamber 25-22, would slash car-tab taxes in the Sound Transit taxing district by approximately 55 percent and tie car valuations to true market value as determined by Kelley Blue Book or the National Automobile Dealers Association.

“Sound Transit is using a phony, dishonest valuation method that is based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price instead of what the car is really worth,” said Sen. Dino Rossi, R-Sammamish. “To make it worse, it is applying this phony valuation to a massive rate increase that is causing real pain to some Washington taxpayers – especially those who are low-income or seniors.

“These folks need and deserve real relief. That’s exactly what the Senate bill will provide.”

Under the Senate measure, Sound Transit would be required to establish a market value adjustment program (MVAP) that would provide a tax credit based on the difference between the current car-tab tax rate of 1.1 percent and one of 0.5 percent based on base model Kelley Blue Book values or National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) values, whichever is lower.

The bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, would also restrict the Department of Licensing from contracting with Sound Transit for collection of the car-tab taxes unless it has implemented the MVAP. Any contract between DOL and Sound Transit would require the regional transit authority to reimburse DOL for the full cost of collecting the car-tab tax.

“Every month, more people open their mail to see shockingly high car-tab bills,” said O’Ban. “There is no longer any debate over scrapping the unfair, outdated valuation system, and even Sound Transit board members agree that in order to provide real relief, we must address the near-quadrupling of the car-tab rate.

“My bill is the only legislation that accomplishes this goal. It would cut car-tab taxes by 55 percent, and establish an honest valuation system, and Sound Transit would still collect more than 50 billion dollars out of its 54 billion-dollar ST3 package.”

Rossi and O’Ban pointed to a recent poll that shows support for Sound Transit 3 has plummeted 17 points since the November election, when it passed 54 percent to 46 percent. If given a chance to vote again, 51 percent of likely voters would reject the measure and only 37 percent would still vote to approve it.

“Support for ST3 is collapsing, and things will only get worse as more people get their car-tab bills,” said O’Ban. “If my colleagues on the other side of the aisle want to restore public confidence in Sound Transit, they must act now.

“It’s time for the majority Democrats in the House to do the right thing and approve this bill without another moment of delay.”

The Legislature is in a second “special” session that must conclude June 21. SB 5893 has until then to pass the House of Representatives.