OLYMPIA - A flat $30 car tab fee is pocketbook-friendly on a personal level, but some local governments are balking at the passage of Initiative 976 after Tuesday’s general election.
Passing with a favorable margin of 55%, I-976 would limit annual license fees for cars weighing under 10,000 pounds at $30, bases vehicle takes on the Kelley Blue Book value rather than 85% of the manufacture’s base suggested retail price and repeals authorization for certain regional transit authorities to impose motor vehicle excise taxes.
On Wednesday, Washington state Governor Jay Inlsee announced all state transportation projects have been postponed considering I-976. The state estimates the initiative eliminates more than $4 billion in tax revenue by 2025. The change is expected to have an impact on transportation budgets on a state, county and local level.
“We’ve got concerns,” said Ephrata City Administrator Wes Crago. Crago says the city relies on state grant funding for arterial projects. Crago expressed relief that the Basin Street repave was taken care of prior to I-976’s passage. But Crago believes the city will now have to delay larger projects as a result of the state transportation funding void created by the new law. One project that will wait, according to Crago, is the Division St. repaving project.
Crago says the voters’ approval of the local sales tax increase for the benefit of local transportation helps but it mostly covers the cost of side street project and patching work.
Grant County Commissioner Cindy Carter says she and her fellow commissioners are looking into how the initiative affects her jurisdiction’s bottom line, but believes “there will be an impact,” but not a profound one.
East Wenatchee Councilman Tim Detering told iFIBER ONE News on Thursday that the city stands to lose $260,000 in transportation funding per year because of the general election. The new law eliminates the city’s $20 car tab fee which generated funds to pay for transportation projects. Prior to the election, Detering says the city had proposed to announce its stance against I-976, but a vote among council members nixed the proposal.
City of Moses Lake Finance Director Cindy Jensen appeared to be strongly opposed to it.
“I’m just amazed that people don’t understand that we need money for roads,” Jensen told iFIBER ONE News on Thursday. Jensen says it’s likely that the city will no longer receive State Transportation Improvement Board grants. Jensen also says multimodal money will go away resulting in a $32,000 hit to the transportation budget and $28,000 loss in funding from the disappearance of motor vehicle transport revenue.
“The 2019 Lakeshore Drive project likely wouldn’t have happened without state funding,” Jensen said.
The state is determining when I-976 will take effect, but it did tell the media that people renewing their vehicle registration can expect to pay in full until at least Dec. 5, 2019.