Pellicciotti / Transit Advocates Working to Close the Gap on HB 2123

Will a Federal Way state representative’s bill delay Federal Way Link’s opening date?

House Bill 2123 is on the agenda for action by the House Transportation Committee this afternoon (starting at 1:00), but is not expected to pass out of committee yet. Nor have any committee members offered an amendment to the bill by the deadline to do so in order to be part of this afternoon’s consideration. Friday is the deadline for most bills in that committee that aren’t necessary to the state budget. However, this afternoon is the committee’s last scheduled meeting this week.

Rep. Mike Pellicciotti (D – Federal Way), prime sponsor of HB 2123, indicated by email that work continues on the bill, and he hopes to moved it forward next week, with the bill being considered “necessary to the budget”, meaning it has no deadline except sine die.

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New ST Funding Reduction Bill About to Be Fast-Tracked

A new bill that will reduce Sound Transit’s motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) funding stream will be introduced Monday, heard in the House Transportation Committee at 1:30 pm Tuesday afternoon, and is expected to be voted out of committee by Friday’s cut-off.

Rep. Mike Pellicciotti

House Bill 2123, by Rep. Mike Pellicciotti (D – Federal Way) would implement a market-value adjustment program on Sound Transit’s portion of MVET payments, starting in 2020.

The bill is sponsored by 30 House Democrats, including 9 of the 17 Democratic members of the House Transportation Committee.

Eight who represent portions of Seattle are on the sponsor list, including:

  • Committee 2nd Vice Chair Javier Valdez
  • Steve Bergquist
  • Lauren Davis
  • Zach Hudgins
  • Eric Pettigrew
  • Jerry Pollett
  • Cindy Ryu
  • Sharon Tomiko Santos

The other 8 sponsors on the committee are:

  • 2nd Vice Chair Vandana Slatter (Bellevue)
  • Pellicciotti
  • Debra Entenman (Kent)
  • Shelley Kloba (Kirkland)
  • John Lovick (Mill Creek)
  • Jared Mead (Mill Creek)
  • Lillian Ortiz-Self (Mukilteo)
  • Bill Ramos (Issaquah)

Since the bill is just being introduced, sponsors have the option of submitting a card to pull their name from the sponsor list by the end of business Monday. You can look up your two representatives and contact them through the district-finder tool. Olympia office phone numbers are all listed at the members’ list page.

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A Do-over for Whom, Tim Eyman?

Another initiative by Tim Eyman

Eighteen years ago, anti-tax activist Tim Eyman decimated funding for public transit with his first $30 car tab initiative, which eliminated the motor vehicle excise tax (MVET).

His latest initiative, I-947, once again proposes to replace the current MVET with a flat $30 car tab fee. The initiative is estimated to cost Sound Transit between $6.9 billion and $8.1 billion. By Permanent Defense’s count, this is Eyman’s sixth attempt to kill funding for transit.

Currently, car owners pay several different fees depending on where they live when renewing vehicle tabs. The Department of Licensing provides a calculator to estimate vehicle tab fees.

  • Everyone in the state pays a standard fee of $38.75 plus a weight fee which helps fund highway maintenance and construction projects, the Washington State Patrol and the Washington State Ferries.
  • Local jurisdictions have the option of charging car owners an additional fee by forming a transportation benefit district. These districts are allowed to collect up to $20 a year without voter approval, or up to $100 if approved by voters. Approximately 50 cities have established transportation benefit districts around the state. Seattle collects an $80 fee to expand bus services and distribute bus passes to middle and high school students through the Youth ORCA program.
  • Car owners living in the Sound Transit taxing district pay an additional fee. With the approval of the ST3 package, the MVET rate increased from 0.3% to 1.1% of the assessed value of the car.

If I-947 passes it would roll back the standard fee to $30 and eliminate all MVET. It would end weight fees imposed by the state government, transportation benefit districts fees and all car tab taxes helping to fund Sound Transit, according to the initiative’s website. Under the initiative, car owners would pay a $30 annual fee. Weight fees and TBDs could be restored by voter approval.

The initiative would also eliminate a 0.3% tax on retail car sales that funds the state’s multimodal account. This account provides grants for regional mobility, rural mobility, special needs, and vanpools.

Although I-947 eliminates the only MVET in the state, it also requires any future MVET to use the Kelley Blue Book value to compute the tax. As Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon explained on STB, this technique cannot be bonded against and effectively rules it out as a funding tool for major capital projects.

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