On Friday, Sen. Patty Kuderer (D – Clyde Hill) submitted a bill that would offer a motor vehicle excise tax (MVET, or “car tab”) market-value adjustment to low-income car owners, for the portion of their car tabs going to Sound Transit. Senate Bill 5075 would offer a discount based on the difference between the MVET valuation formula used in 1996, when ST1 included an MVET as one of its revenue sources, and the formula devised by the Legislature in 2006 that won’t take effect until all ST1 bonds are paid off.
Since the older formula values newer cars at a higher rate than the newer formula does only for cars less than 10 years old, the bill specifies that only cars less than 10 years old would qualify for the discount. “Low-income” would be defined as less than 200% of the federal poverty level, the same level used for ORCA LIFT qualification.
The discount would only be retroactive to January 1 of this year. Discounts would start being offered at the time of payment starting July 1. Those paying before then would get to claim a credit on their next MVET payment starting September 1.
Meanwhile, Sen. Steve O’Ban (R – University Place) has submitted four bills that would have a less surgical impact on Sound Transit revenue. Most are similar to ones he has previously sponsored.
Senate Bill 5037 would set thresholds for triggering a re-vote on ST3, including undefined changes in scope. It appears to be a case where the intent statement does not match the bill language.
The intent statement says:
It is the intent of the legislature that a regional transit authority receive additional approval from voters if the cost to complete a regional transit system plan approved by voters in 2016 increases beyond fifty-four billion dollars or any additions or subtractions of projects or significant project scope when compared to the system plan are made.
The intent statement doesn’t specify year of expenditure. It is also difficult to discern how the convoluted bill language leads to fulfilling the intent statement.
SB 5042 brings back the non-workable idea of basing motor vehicle excise taxes (MVETs) on Kelley Blue Book valuation or National Automobile Dealers’ Association values, whichever is less. Tabpayers would get a credit for the different valuations retroactive to 2017. The bill still requires completion of the ST3 project list, and invokes other cost-cutting measures to enable completion.
SB 5043 would allow Pierce, Snohomish, or King County, by citizen referendum, to nullify Sound Transit 3 taxes in the county. All voters in the county, not just those living in the Sound Transit taxing district, would get to sign the referendum petition, and vote on it. The bill requires defeasance of bond debt where possible, but is silent on whether any ST3 projects would have to be completed.
SB 5044 would allow Pierce, Snohomish, or King County, by citizen referendum, to nullify all Sound Transit taxes in the county. Like SB 5043, it would allow all voters in a county to sign the petition and vote on the proposition. The bill is silent on whether a successful vote in Pierce County, where ST3 narrowly lost, would trigger a shutdown of South Sounder service, ST Express bus service in the county, and Tacoma Link.
Sen. O’Ban’s office did not get back to me regarding questions on these bills as of publication time.