O’Ban fight for car-tab relief to continue at afternoon committee session

Sen. Steve O’Ban’s defense of taxpayers stung by high car-tab costs due to Sound Transit will continue this afternoon, when the Senate Transportation Committee is scheduled to vote on Senate Bill 5955. O’Ban, who says the bill offers only modest relief to taxpayers while giving a big break to Sound Transit, plans to propose changes that would instead put taxpayers ahead of the transit agency.

O’Ban, R-University Place and a member of the committee, anticipates his colleagues will consider an amendment to SB 5955 that would not refund any overpaid Sound Transit-related taxes for 2017 and 2018, only giving taxpayers “credits” toward upcoming car-tab fees, and only for those taxpayers who learn of the credit and apply for it. He said the refund allowed under the bill is meager – only about $40 for the average taxpayer.

Furthermore, O’Ban explains, the expected amendment could reduce or remove funds from an account created for educational services for at-risk youth, including homeless and foster youth, which is to receive revenue from sales tax collected on Sound Transit construction projects beginning in 2019. This amendment would instead give Sound Transit control of how to spend that money.

O’Ban will introduce amendments aimed at providing real relief for taxpayers and protecting the fund for homeless and foster kids. His amendments would establish vehicle valuation based on the Kelley Blue Book or National Auto Dealers Association values and cut the tax by 55 percent, keep the sales tax on Sound Transit construction projects for homeless and foster kids and require Sound Transit to offset any lost revenue by reducing its high-end office space costs in downtown Seattle, ending excessive spending on parties, and limiting staff salary increases and bonuses.

“My friends across the aisle are more interested in protecting Sound Transit than protecting taxpayers and the fund created to help the homeless and kids. There really are two different approaches or paradigms in Olympia. One approach is to pass legislation dressed up as tax relief, but in reality is designed to help Sound Transit and not ease the burden on taxpayers,” said O’Ban. “I am offering amendments that would significantly reduce car-tab fees, protect the vulnerable who depend on this fund, and require Sound Transit to cover any lost revenue from its own largess.”

The Pierce County senator is also concerned about another equally unacceptable method to pay taxpayers their tax credits that has been floated in recent media reports — which would be to offer Sound Transit decades-long leases on airspace rights controlled by the state Department of Transportation. Doing so would tie up that valuable space and prevent expansion and development.