• Initiative would reduce car tabs to a flat rate and will appear on November ballot
  • Opponents say it would harm transportation funding


Emma Epperly

Emma Epperly

By Emma Epperly

WNPA Olympia News Bureau

The Senate and House transportation committees heard public testimony Tuesday on Tim Eyman’s “Bring Back Our $30 Car Tabs” initiative. The legislature has the option to propose an alternative to the initiative which would appear alongside the initiative on the 2019 ballot.

Eyman was the only person to testify in support of Initiative 976, in both the House and Senate.

“I think that the fact that the voters have voted for it over and over again and their elected officials both at the state level and the local level aren’t willing to accept that decision, I think gets people kind of ornery,” said Eyman.

I-976 would repeal, reduce, or remove the ability to impose a variety of vehicle taxes and fees except for those that are voter approved. It would also require the use of Kelley Blue Book values as a basis for vehicle taxes.

“It wasn’t the money, it was the fact that gosh darnit these dirty dogs they’re not listening to me, and let’s kick them in the shins one more time,” said Eyman. “I mean that seemed to be the sentiment (of voters).”

Pete Stark is the chairman of the small and medium transport caucus and general manager of Whatcom Transportation Authority. He testified against the bill. Many of the taxes that would be repealed under I-197 go in to the Multimodal Transportation Fund. Grants from this fund go to rural transportation services, transportation alternatives, public transit and services provided by nonprofits, among other uses, said Stark.

“Multimodal grant programs are essential to the rural transportation systems in Washington state some of which get as much as 40 percent of their funding or more from this program,” said Stark.

Approximately 40 percent of the public transit ridership in Whatcom County does not have an alternative form of transportation, said Stark.

Justin Layton from the Washington State Transit Association testified in “clear and staunch” opposition to the initiative.

“976 is a false premise to our community which offers a loaded question on the people without any clear impacts of what it really means,” said Layton. “976 would mean the elimination of all grant programs that provide financial assistance to transit agencies around the state no matter what community they are in.”

There are no clear funding alternatives for these programs that would not result in cost increases to public transit, said Layton.

If I-197 passes, local governments would lose approximately $116 million, according to a House staff report. Currently, Sound Transit collect $328 million per year in motor vehicle excise taxes, according to the fiscal impact report.

Eyman has been proposing and passing a variety of initiatives since 1999 starting with Initiative 695, called the Washington Voter Approval for Tax Increases. I-695 limited license tab fees to $30 and was overturned by the Washington State Supreme Court in 2000 because it was not limited to one subject, a requirement of all initiatives.