Although the standalone bill that would add authority for a $20 license fee in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties died in the House last month, Publicola reports that the same provision has been proposed as an amendment to SB 6774, an otherwise boring bill about Transportation Benefit District governance:

The amendments—sponsored by Reps. Scott White (D-46) and Sharon Nelson (D-34) for King County and Rep. Marko Liias (D-21) for Pierce and Snohomish—would grant the three county councils the authority to either pass a $20 vehicle-license fee to pay for transit, or to put a license fee of up to $100 before voters for the same purpose. (They could also impose a $20 license fee and put a measure on the ballot, but the ballot proposal would be limited to $80).

My math says a $40 fee alone would solve Metro’s funding problems, or a $30 fee plus a removal of sales tax exemptions similar to the House plan.  However, if I read it correctly this authority would expire in 2015.

Erica says Republicans are hoping for a floor vote to identify who supports the amendments, which have not yet passed.  Someone should tell them that avoiding drastic transit cuts beats doing nothing 3-to-1, even in off-year special elections in relatively conservative districts.

UPDATE: TCC has an email your legislator page for this amendment.

29 Replies to “Vehicle License Fee Back from the Dead”

  1. Since there is a specialty plate for all sorts of causes in the State of Washington, including, amazingly, bicycling.

    So why not have one that devotes some portion of the fee to transit?

    1. Because the state isn’t allowing more specialty plates at all right now. There’s a long line of nonprofits interested in having one.

  2. It would be nice to see Eyemans I-695 repealed. That would solve a LOT of problems and its quite fair. Why should someone with an 1982 civic pay the same license fees as someone with a 2010 escalade…make the license fee come back, and make it proportional to a car’s value, and do not allow it to be used as a write off for business, I’ve seen plenty of hummers and large trucks driving around with tiny stickers on them that say something like “LB’s DJ Service” get a minivan.

    1. “Make the license fee come back.”

      I would, personally, love to. That said, there are very few of us activists and a hell of a lot to pay attention to. How about starting a small campaign to do so? We’d be happy to meet with you about organizing and how to get started.

      1. I would support it if they would change the mvet (including the existing scales used by ST) to more accuratly reflect a vehicles blue book value and not based off some percentage of origonal sale price.

    2. The biggest issue back then I think was that on a $30k vehicle, your yearly tab bill was $1200 to $1500 a year! That is on top of one of the highest gas taxes in the nation. I like your idea that the state should make your tabs proportional to the car’s value, when have you ever seen this state do anything in favor(or even nice or reasonable)of the tax payer?

      Just make car tabs reasonable and I think that is all that people wanted. $20.00 a year isn’t nor is $1500…

      1. On an Audi A6, in 2000, my family paid about $500 a year. That’s a lot more than a $30,000 car.

        The MVET was not as you are describing it.

    3. Technically, I-695 never took effect, it was ruled unconstitutional. However, the legislature went ahead and did effectively the same thing.

      By the way, the MVET set to the value of the vehicle was the closest thing to an income tax.

      And it wasn’t specific to transportation, it was used to fund a variety of things.

      1. Jim,

        Um, No. It’s not an income tax, it’s an outgo (i.e. “consumption”) tax. Sure, there’s a correlation between the value of vehicles that different income groups have, but there’s a correlation between if they live in Medina or Renton, too.

        Goodness, there’s even a correlation between the amount one pays for sales tax and income, too, because people with more income buy more stuff, broadly speaking.

        Are you going to claim that property and sales taxes are “income” taxes, too?

      2. I didn’t say it WAS AN INCOME TAX, just that since this state doesn’t have a tax based on relative wealth, it was the closest thing.

        Without the MVET, I guess property taxes come the closest.

        Not sure what your point is.

  3. I hope they do vote on it. We need to know who our friends are when all the chips are down. Other than Marko Liias, Geoff Simpson, Scott White and Sharon Nelson, it’s hard to know sometimes who gives a rat’s ass about transit.

  4. I’m sure someone in Moses Lake will love paying $100 a year for his $2000 pickup truck so someone in the U. District can ride a train.

    1. Moses Lake is nowhere near King County.

      A better example would be someone living in Skykomish, which is in King County but doesn’t even get Metro bus service (it used to in the past).

    2. I want to point out that Moses Lake doesn’t generate anywhere near the tax revenue necessary to maintain I-90. No matter what that $100 went to (and it’s blatantly dishonest, coming from you, to suggest it would be trains), it would be less than the benefit Moses Lake receives.

      1. Metro’s policies to add and reduce service are broken down by subarea, so yes, it would apply.

    3. A lot of people in the University District and the rest of Seattle don’t mind paying for people in Moses Lake to have pavement to drive their pickup trucks on when mud and dirt would work just as well.

      But, let people elsewhere keep up their perennial hate campaign against Seattle, and sooner or later we’ll make them a deal:We keep all our transportation money, and they get to keep all of theirs.

      Just kidding. We like going east of the mountains. Serious danger is, if people in Moses Lake don’t help us keep Seattle fit to live in- we’ll all move out there- and bring our voting addresses with us.

      Mark Dublin, Ballard

    4. John, you haven’t been paying attention. The bills in play would allow local taxing districts, like King County, to impose MVET taxes (or fees if you prefer) after a vote by the people. If I vote to raise my tabs by $30, and to be clear I own 2 cars so that’s $60 to me, that has ABSOLUTELY no effect on folks in Moses Lake. The tax is on King County registered cars only.

      Actually, it may have an effect. When folks from Moses Lake come to visit they may find our transit system so useful that they just decide to park their car at their hotel in Issaquah. They can walk across the street to the P&R and take the 554 or 214 into Seattle instead of dealing with our nightmareish traffic.

  5. Just to remind you all, Washington State is a property tax based state, not income tax based. Thus all you had to do to avoid the old MVET was drive a cheap or old car. There is no gun being held to your head forcing you to buy that Porsche Cayenne.

    1. I-695 mandated the $35 vehicle registration fee, because that’s what it cost in Oregon to license an auto for one year. Today, in Oregon the fee has risen to $77/year, but WA is still stuck at $35/year. How dumb is that?

      1. Check your registration carefully – The fee is only $30. I think there is a $5 processing fee or something like that and then the RTA Tax – which many of us voted for way back when. (You can deduct the RTA Tax on your federal tax by the way) You may disagree with that tax and may not have voted for it, but the majority at the time did. I suspect that if a license fee for increased transit came on the ballot it would still pass, so just deal with it, Ok?

    2. I think a lot of people thought the fees were very high even for old beater cars. I know that back when I was driving an $800 car that the yearly tab fee was a hardship for me (because I didn’t have much money, hence the $800 car). If you bought a new car, the fee was several hundred dollars. Now, if it was broken up into monthly payments it wouldn’t be that big a deal for most, but the yearly lump sum was understandably painful when people knew that their friends in Oregon were paying $35 for the same thing.

      That said, I didn’t vote for 695 and the legislature was moronic for caving on it and putting Eyman’s restrictions into law — especially for not allowing the price to go up eventually!

  6. Um … I don’t know about you, but I just wrote an $85 check for my new tabs…

    Weird. Can I have back my $50?

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