Senate Bill 5955, Sen. Patty Kuderer’s (D – Bellevue) car tab relief bill, has been added to the list of bills scheduled for action in the Senate Transportation Committee today. Today is also the last day for bills to get out of committee, unless they are necessary to the budgets. The committee meets this afternoon at 1:30 pm, and will act on as many as nine bills.
SB 5955 is similar to HB 2201, which passed the House for the second time back on January 24.
Sound Move (ST1, passed in 1996) contained a 0.3% motor vehicle excise tax (MVET), or “car tab”. ST3 added an additional 0.8% MVET. Both are specified by ST3’s enabling law to be under the 1996 methodology until the ST1 bonds are paid off. After that, the 0.3% MVET from Sound Move expires, and the ST MVET will switch to a methology chart the legislature passed in 2006.
SB 5955 would give MVET payers a credit based on how much more the 1996-method MVET is than if it were calculated using the 2006 method. However, those who would pay more under the 2006 method would still get to pay the lower 1996 calculation.
Sound Transit estimated the bill’s eventual impact to Sound Transit at $2.3 billion due to increased debt financing.
The bill requires Sound Transit to nevertheless attempt to deliver the full ST3 package, by saving money through cost efficiencies, savings, and practical design. If ST cannot deliver the full package, then new parking facilities would be cut first, then commuter rail investments, then bus service, then light rail projects.
Sen. Kuderer testified that car tabs disproportionately impact low- and middle-income taxpayers. However, the change in the formula would primarly benefit owners of newer, more expensive cars, which tend to be owned by wealthier drivers. Reducing transit funding hurts lower-income taxpayers more, as they are more likely to depend on transit.
Transportation Choices, the Northwest Progressive Institute, and the Seattle Chamber of Commerce all testified against the bill at its hearing on January 24.
The Department of Licensing asked that the bill not apply retroactively, as that would result in an additional $2 million per month monthly cost.
As of publication time, no proposed committee substitute bill was available online.