Senate backs bill to slash car-tab taxes, eliminate dubious $12 billion price tag

The Senate today took direct aim at Sound Transit’s controversial and inflated car-tab taxes with a vote to send an amended version of Senate Bill 5893 back to the House of Representatives for consideration. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban, would slash car-tab taxes in the Sound Transit taxing district by 55 percent and tie car valuations to true market value as determined by Kelley Blue Book or the National Automobile Dealers Association.

“The excuses are gone,” said O’Ban, R-University Place. “It’s time for the House to join us and pass real car-tab tax relief – not some shell game that relies on a property-tax hike and a cooked-up valuation schedule.”

Public records obtained by O’Ban and Sen. Dino Rossi provide details on how Sound Transit reached its controversial $12-billion price tag for the previous version of O’Ban’s bill, which the Senate had passed April 6. Documents reveal the purported price tag hinged on the costs of financing bonds tied to the agency’s Sound Transit 2 proposal, from 2008.

Before today’s Senate vote, O’Ban amended his legislation to institute a rebate program similar to that proposed by the Democrat-controlled House. The structure of the program would eliminate the need to defease bonds, meaning the revised Senate bill would result in an estimated total loss of revenue to Sound Transit of only $3.92 billion over 30 years.

“We cut car-tab taxes by more than 50 percent, go to an honest valuation system, and Sound Transit still collects more than 50 billion dollars,” said Rossi, R-Sammamish. “That’s 35 billion dollars more than they initially told the Legislature they needed. Any excuses at this point are just an attempt by the House and Governor Inslee to protect their friends at Sound Transit.

“I’m more interested in protecting the people we represent. Four billion dollars is a celebration party and a rounding error for Sound Transit. They can figure this out.”

O’Ban agreed, and called on House Democrats to immediately take up his bill, which passed the Senate 25-20.

“House Democrats have been making excuses for Sound Transit all session long,” said O’Ban. “First they said that there was no problem. Then they said fixing it was too expensive and would result in project delays. When they got too much heat from constituents, they opted to protect Sound Transit at the expense of property taxpayers.

“Enough is enough. Nobody loses with this bill, Sound Transit has plenty of money to deliver its projects and taxpayers get real relief.”

On a 29-17 vote, the Senate Tuesday also passed Senate Bill 5001, O’Ban’s bill to require the popular election of Sound Transit board members.

“If Sound Transit officers had to face the voters, all of the legislation we have been introducing this year would not have been necessary,” explained O’Ban.