Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thousands of complaints, from people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, about the soaring fees imposed by Sound Transit have flooded the Capitol in recent weeks.
I wish I had better news to share with you, but despite my best efforts, and the efforts of many of my colleagues, not much has changed with Sound Transit.
Early in the session, I began working with my colleagues in the House Republican caucus, and the Senate, to get real relief for people from the exorbitant taxes associated with the $54 billion project. For weeks now, we've worked hard to find solutions and give people the help they need with skyrocketing car tab fees.
Last week, I took the fight for Sound Transit reform to the House floor. I introduced an amendment to the House transportation budget that would prohibit the Department of Licensing from collecting motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) from residents of cities or counties that choose to opt-out of Sound Transit. Other amendments offered by House Republicans would exempt Pierce County from Sound Transit taxes, and still another would require Sound Transit to use the Kelley Blue Book value when assessing the car tab fees.
It was extremely frustrating to see all of our common-sense solutions to reduce the steep fees rejected. In fact, of the five amendments to the House transportation budget, House Democrats refused to hear four, and rejected the other on a party-line vote.
Instead, House Democrats offered their own version of a plan with House Bill 2201. While I appreciate they are finally coming to the table, it's too little, (way) too late. This plan offers vehicle owners a tiny rebate, but it's not much. Let me give you an example:
If you own a 2017 Honda accord EX sedan (standard), with Sound Transit's current plan you'll pay around $207 in Sound Transit car tab fees. With the House Democrats plan, you'll pay $176. That is a savings of only $31.
By basing the car tab valuation on the Kelley Blue Book value, which is the plan I prefer, the car tab fees would be around $129. That's a savings of $78.
Read this one page brief that demonstrates the differences in the Republican and Democratic approaches to car tabs, the Regional Transit Authority board, communities opting out of Sound Transit, split parcels, legislative authority on bonds and constitutional concerns.
When House Bill 2201 was brought to the floor for debate, my colleagues and I did our best to sway the other side to a better solution. However, each amendment we offered was either “scoped” (which means they said the title of the bill did not match the proposed amendment), or it was rejected on a party-line vote.
To say I was extremely disheartened to see each of our solutions blocked would be an understatement. I know the kind of impact these fees have on hard-working individuals and families who are already struggling to pay their bills.
House Bill 2201 now moves to the Senate, where Republican lawmakers are hoping to amend the proposal to include much stronger reforms to how Sound Transit assesses vehicle values to determine car tab fees. Which is why I voted “yes.” I'm hoping the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus will get the needed ST3 reforms added to the bill. If their efforts fail (which I sincerely hope they do not) at least people will get a small amount of help with their fees.
Let me be clear, my resolve on this issue is firm. During the remaining six days of the regularly scheduled session, I'll continue to advocate for a solution that brings real relief from these high fees. Please continue calling and emailing me about this issue. Taxpayers need, and deserve, real relief.