Saturday, May 05, 2007

Local Option Car Tax Approved

Submitted by Paul Ellis

Governor Christine Gregoire gave Washington cities and counties the authority Friday to collect a $20 annual fee on vehicle registrations without a public vote, replacing a similar tax that was repealed by voters in 2002.

Since 2003, cities and counties have had authority to collect as much as $100 a year from a local car tax that wins public approval at the ballot box, but to date no local jurisdiction has pursued that option. Voters last fall turned down Tacoma’s request for a property tax increase to raise $48 million for street repairs over six years. HB1858 lets a county council or a city council levy a $20 fee without voter approval.

The signing upset professional initiative promoter Tim Eyman, who crashed the signing ceremony to accuse Gregoire and the Legislature of ignoring the wishes of the people. Eyman led the initiative drive that voters passed in 2002 (I-776).

Pierce, King and Snohomish counties and the cities within its borders can’t impose the $20 fee until after May 22, 2008--a delay designed to let the Roads & Transit Plan go to voters first.
After that date, HB 1858 gives the three county councils first crack at deciding whether to go with a countywide car tax; if a county council opts not to impose the annual fee, each city council could then make its own decision.

Paul Ellis is lead staff for RAMP; an employee of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Ellis led the Pierce County Transportation Advisory Committee (PCTAC), the community’s largest transportation planning effort.

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