Rep. Joyce McDonald,
R – Puyallup

While many in the State House have been in a rush to assuage car drivers angry at being taxed more, and trample on Sound Transit’s ability to build the ST3 capital program, one Republican representative has offered a bill that uses some of the lenses we’d expect from Democrats to craft a more economically-progressive twist to altering the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax formula, albeit only impacting Sound Transit’s portion of the MVET.

House Bill 2825 would provide graduated partial ST MVET exemptions based on the existing state property tax exemptions detailed in the Revised Code of Washington Section 84.36.381. To qualify, a person has to be at least 60 or unable to get gainful employment due to a disability. Due to how the bill references the property tax exemption, the person also has to be a property owner (which can include owning one’s condominium or part of a cooperatively-owned property).

The exemptions would be 20%, 35%, or 60% of the MVET due based on income.

  • Qualifying property owners earning less than $30,000 would get a 60% break on the ST portion of their MVET.
  • Qualifying property owners earning $30,000-$35,000 would get a 35% break on the ST portion of their MVET.
  • Qualifying property owners earning $35,000-$40,000 would get a 20% break on the ST portion of their MVET.

The bill’s three obvious weaknesses are that those not owning property don’t qualify for the exemption; that no replacement revenue source is being offered to Sound Transit; and no other entities would have to take a hit on their MVET collection.

No fiscal note for the bill is expected until it is granted a hearing in the House Transportation Committee, which is not guaranteed to happen.

Meanwhile, back over in the Senate Transportation Committee, several bills directed at Sound Transit are being heard this coming Wednesday afternoon at 3:30, including a couple bills by Sen. Steve O’Ban, and SB 5955, a bill sponsored by several Democrats that would give car tab payers a “credit” based on the difference between the valuation method used in 1996 and the current car tab valuation. The bill will get a makeover in committee, as it was submitted last year, when there was a different balance of power in the legislature.

12 Replies to “Republican Representative Proposes a More Progressive MVET Restructure”

  1. I think it’s certainly worth running the numbers to see what the revenue impact to ST would be for a bill like this, and if it could be made up by reducing the $500 Sound Transit “education” fund.

    Definitely, much more constructive what what I would typically expect from a Republican.

  2. What is it about car costs that so captivate people? For example, I recall an article comparing the price of milk and the price of gas. Even though they have similar costs and people buy similar amounts, there is basically no coverage of milk costs. Or how about how petrified Congress is to raise their gas tax just to keep up with inflation. Now, this yearly car tax, though insignificant compared to the rent increases, has somehow captivated the legislature.

    Thinking out loud here, but maybe our car tab tax fixation is a mini version of what has happened across the country. We grew up being told that capitalism is the source of our wealth and modern comfort. But then our rent doubles, our health care cost doubles, etc. But there’s no one to blame because it just the regular working of capitalism. Then this car tab tax hits. It comes all at once. It is a big expense. If you depend on your car, it is unavoidable. But most importantly, it seems dishonest by design and it is the government’s fault. Then all the frustration boils over.

    1. Two things. One, the bill comes all at once annually rather than being a few pennies at a time with each purchase. Two, the mentality described by Donald Shoup in “The High Cost of Free Parking”. We have arranged our society so that everybody pais for the cost of business parking lots except the drivers using them. The same principle applies to roads, P&Rs, and apartments with bundled parking (included in the rent). The costs are directed away from the person who parks there, and people believe that is normal. That comes from the Futurama vision of the 1930s, that everyone would have a house and car and parking space, and drive uncongested highways to free parking at their work and shopping places. Then in the 1960s it went from one car per family to one car per adult in the family. People believe that all this infrastructure costs peanuts, and it’s the responsibility of the businesses people go to if they want customers, and the apartment buildings and houses to provide off-street parking. A similar attitude applies to roads and transit. And even though it’s whittled away somewhat with the gas tax, downtown parking fees, and paid P&R spaces, the bulk of the mentality lives on like the dream of the 90s in Portland. So when people get a $200 bill for their car, they get outraged and think it’s government overreach. And they don’t really connect it with the promise of trains in two decades, because that seems so far away, and less convenient than just driving. All this stuff about the wrong MVET schedule and what ST allegedly should have told the legislature comes out of that.

      1. Could it be like this, Mike? The living pattern we’ve developed- I keep dating it to the end of Second World War- really does make a car far more necessary for a the average person’s daily activities as a pair of shoes.

        Red Lanes (Can’t figure out if that’s Commie or Confederate) and cameras really need a change in that to work. Same as the need for the necessary part of the travelling public to call Senator O’Ban and tell him that Sound Transit to Olympia is the only thing that can save property values in Grandview from people like me using it for an I-5 GP lane.

        Hate to say this, but best hopeful sign is that the people with the most money now seem to be moving into the densest neighborhoods our our cities. Driving thousands of people with only one million dollars to worsen the suburban and temporarily rural sprawl.

        But indicating how desirable city life has become. Something Europe has known since beginning of civilization. Some evidence that chief cause of violent disaffection among recent young immigrants is the open disdain that the urban wealthy feel for the suburban low-income.

        By race and income, the exact mirror of the way wealthy suburbanites have traditionally looked at the Inner City and its residents. Anybody know enough colloquial French to tell me if “Banlieu” translates to “Ghetto?” See:

        But reason this trend is hopeful to me is that we’ve proved beyond doubt that transit-friendly life is extremely desirable to those who can afford it. Thereby pointing out necessary plan of action. See to it that an ever larger number of ordinary people can afford city life.

        If private companies honestly can’t fit this into their business plan, in return for a legitimate say in the details, I think many of these companies would be willing to start paying taxes for public transit. Equality and the environment aside, I think this will very likely pencil out favorably.

        But one indicator I keep listening for. When National Public Radio starts giving as much time to labor unions as it does to the stock market, finally a sensible answer “Blowin’ in The Wind.” My friend. Instead of present hot, stale air.

        Been there and done that in Seattle too.

        Mark Dublin

      2. The American dislike of cities goes back before automobiles. I’ve heard that Europeans value their cities because walled cities were their defense against robbers and unemployed mercenaries during the Middle Ages. Whereas Americans came to build small-town theocracies and homestead on abundant land, so they somewhat self-selected against urbanism. Then in the 19th century as industrial cities fostered real pollution and deprivation, and blacks and non-Northern European immigrants concentrated in cities for jobs, it gave more reasons to live as far out as possible. Then trains and cars made it possible for more people to live further out, and the 1930s Futurama mentality I alluded to made it seem modern and patriotic to do so — the fruits of our superior Constitution and civilization. And that leads to your “our living patterns since the end of WWII making a car as necessary as a pair of shoes”.

    2. “What is it about car costs that so captivate people?”

      I know what you’re talking about, as I experienced this firsthand in college, when my university was undergoing a gradual process of raising parking fees from almost free to something in line with market rates that would allow parking to pay for itself, without continual subsidies from the university’s general fund. The cost for the economy lot (where most students parked) jumped from about $50 to $300 between my freshman and senior year, while the cost for the premium lot right next to the dorms went up from around $100 to $500.

      Everybody screamed, and viewed at the university’s argument about parking paying for itself as a money grab. Even the professors had their parking fees go up as well, and the complained about it too (although they still paid less per year than students, and got priority for most of the high-demand lots).

      And, nobody paid attention to the fact that even the $500 fee for students to park in the premium lot was still just over $50/month (for a nine-month academic year), while the hospital garages across the street from the university were charging well over $100/month to park in their garages. Nor was anybody paying attention to the fact that $500/year is still trivial, in the scheme of things, compared to all the rest of the costs associated with owning a car. Just liability insurance student, alone, for a college student under 25 years old, was well over $500/year, yet nobody paid any attention to that.

      (Hindsight note: they got a very good deal – the parking rates at the university have doubled again in the ten year since I left).

    1. Very much with you, Joe. But one thing we need to examine is why the community college branch- or was it UW?- built into Everett Station went away years ago. Anybody know?


  3. Incidentally, my comment was meant to include the public sector in general, including but not limited to public transit.

    Perhaps the worst of our present governing ideas is that our own voters haven’t got the ability to manage and hire each other for the work we need done. If, as is really usual for public necessities, private profit doesn’t justify long-term investment.

    Still personally think share-holders represent a conflict of interest with service that is not a matter of choice. Example close to home. Why is Seattle Transit not still Seattle’s bus company?


  4. Thanks for pointing out the walls, Mike. Another massive old difference in consciousness between long term life in Europe and in the United States- which hasn’t been here long enough to form an opinion about.

    For instance, it’s a howl to hear the amateur local theocracies here always say they’re “under siege” by the people they themselves are trying to intimidate into obeying their orders. God really has Blessed America that through our history, very few people know the meaning of the word.

    Tactical “nukes” weren’t needed at all. Smallpox and starvation very often killed everybody on both sides of the walls. Smallpox is also what really gave us Europeans this continent. First contact swiftly left a line of dead bodies all the way into the sunset. A match in a lake of gasoline to the horizon.

    Transition from farm- to factory a little more complicated for the average worker. Revealing fact about farm life. For all history, chief reason for most infantrymen to “join up” was that no battlefield in the world scared them like life on their father’s farm. Usually more dangerous, too. Due to both your animals and your father.

    So a lot of rural people, especially young, flocked to factory work. And considered city life and mill work a major improvement in their position in the world. Have also read that in famines, first to starve are farmers.

    But probably major difference between continents. When we could buy cars, we had, by European standards, a huge amount of really nice starvation- war- and disease- free empty space to drive around in.

    I don’t see conspiracy as chief author of present – hey, notice how the ST haters say they’re under siege from transit-fiends? If that’s true, we can also catapult the bodies of our own disease victims over their walls. Tempting.

    Though it was really more like an honest failure of everybody’s imagination. The one thing nobody ever thought possible was that all these farms and forests, and deserts could ever be so full of cars that nobody could move because of them.

    So let’s use tomorrow’s open thread to imagine how we’re going to reverse seventy years of “sprawl”. Probably where they got that octopus stealing LINK seats. Probably ate the seat hog. Security!!!!!



  5. Limiting tax breaks to people who can afford to own real estate in one of the most expensive regions of the country is hardly progressive. She’s catering to her voters in one of the least expensive microregions of the Puget Sound.

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