O’Ban offers amendments to fight for car-tab relief, hold Sound Transit accountable

Sen. Steve O’Ban’s battle for taxpayers stung by Sound Transit’s skyrocketing car-tab taxes continued Wednesday when the Senate debated Senate Bill 5955. O’Ban, who says the Sound Transit-supported bill offers only meager relief, proposed amendments that would instead put taxpayers ahead of the transit agency.

O’Ban, R-University Place, pointed out that SB 5955 would not refund any Sound Transit taxes paid 2017 and 2018, but instead would give taxpayers “credits” toward future car-tab fees, and apparently only for those taxpayers who learn of the credit and apply for it. Quoting House Transportation Committee Chair Judy Clibborn, he said the refund would amount to only about $40 for the average taxpayer.

Furthermore, O’Ban explained that SB 5955 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.

O’Ban introduced six amendments, five were not adopted. They would have:

1) established a market-based valuation system, such as Kelley Blue Book, and cut the tax by 55 percent;

2) required direct elections of Sound Transit board members by taxpayers;

3) property taxes could be nullified through a city or county proposition;

4) required Sound Transit to get voter approval if it needs more than the $54 billion approved by voters in 2016; and

5) kept 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.

O’Ban’s amendment that was adopted would maintain the requirement that Sound Transit, like all project developers, obtain county permits for projects.

“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,” said O’Ban. “There really are two different 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 meaningfully ease the burden on taxpayers.”

“The other paradigm is to provide real tax relief to the hardworking middle class,” O’Ban said.

“I offered amendments that would have significantly reduced car-tab fees, protected the vulnerable who depend on this fund, and required Sound Transit to cover any lost revenue from its own largess.”

The Senate voted 30-14 to approve SB 5955. It now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.