Car tab measure passes in Washington

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Courtesy photo/Voters have passed Tim Eyman’s initiative to lower car tab fees in Washington state, election results from the Washington State Secretary of State on Wednesday show.

OLYMPIA — Voters have passed Tim Eyman's initiative to lower car tab fees in Washington state, election results from the Washington State Secretary of State on Wednesday showed

Although Washington voters approved the I-976 measure, officials in King County say they are prepared to file a lawsuit, challenging the constitutionality of the initiative, which would reduce funding for state and local transportation projects by abolishing, diminishing, or eliminating the state and local government's power to require distinct vehicle taxes and fees.

King County Executive Dow Constantine has directed the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office to begin preparing a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the measure, according to King County officials.

“The passage of I-976 underscores the ongoing need for comprehensive state tax reform, but in the short term we must clean up another mess that Tim Eyman has created for our state, our region, and our economy. There will be many discussions in the weeks and months ahead to determine how to overcome the loss of safety and mobility caused by this irresponsible initiative, but the impact of I-976 to transportation is – in a word – devastating,” Constantine said. “We and the City of Seattle share a set of principles with which we will approach mobility reductions. These principles include: minimizing impacts to vulnerable populations, especially those with low-incomes and people of color; maintaining the 10- and 15-minute service frequency whenever possible; and minimizing overcrowding.

The measure, which currently leads 55.7 percent to 44.93 percent of the vote, with 1,195,198 total votes, would limit state and local license fees for vehicles under 10,000 pounds at $30 unless the fee is approved by voters. The initiative has 658,205 ‘yes' votes compared to 536,993 ‘no' votes. In Grant County, 9,266 (73.36 percent) of voters approve of the initiative, while 3,365 (26.64 percent) are against the initiative, with 12,631 total votes. The initiative is set to go into law on December 5, 2019.

License charges such as the motor vehicle weight fees and transportation benefit district fees would be abolished if the initiative passes and goes into law unless the initiative gets challenged in state court. Certain existing license fees such as the electric vehicle license fee, and the licensing fees for snowmobiles and commercial trailers would be lowered to $30 but the transportation electrification fee would not be affected by the initiative. Service and filing fees would not be affected by the initiative, according to the Washington Secretary of State. Initiative 976 would also repeal the state's motor vehicle sales and lease tax and would bar local governments from imposing a local motor vehicle excise tax that supports passenger-only ferries.

The state will lose $1,922,643,101 in revenue in the next six years if the initiative goes into law, according to the Washington State Office of Financial Management. The state agency says local governments would lose $2,317,121,034 in the next six years, with the Departments of Licensing and revenue estimating the cost to implement the initiative would be $2,846,800 for the 2019-2021 biennium.

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