Protecting families from unfair taxes should be more important than protecting Sound Transit

Jan 25, 2018

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to testify before the Senate Transportation Committee on Senate Bill 6303, which would reduce the unfairness of Sound Transit’s car tab tax overcharges by giving families the significant tax relief they have asked for.  

Here is the public hearing, beginning with my testimony on this bill. Below is a written account.

“Senate Bill 6303 and Senate Bill 5955 are two bills that would provide varying degrees of car tab relief to the public.

Where both bills are strong is that both allow a retroactive credit for overcharges people paid in 2017. A retroactive credit should be a part of any car tab bill that seeks to bring relief to taxpayers.

There is a significant difference between the bills, however, that on balance make Senate Bill 6303 a stronger and more fair solution for taxpayers.

Senate Bill 6303 has an additional provision which states that Sound Transit can contract with the state Department of Licensing for the collection of car tab taxes only if Sound Transit implements the credit program. Given that part of the credit calculation used in this program includes a reduced 0.5 percent car tab tax, the bill effectively gives taxpayers the greater reprieve they have asked for.

Although there is debate about whether it is right to reduce a voter-approved tax increase in this calculation, it is increasingly clear that Sound Transit officials were not honest with voters about how high their proposed car tab tax increase would be. It is also clear that Sound Transit can afford this fix. In the last year, Sound Transit has had numerous unexpected expenses and yet has always been able to absorb the cost. It’s only when we talk about tax relief for families that the agency suddenly has challenges or wants to be paid back.

People have asked their local elected representatives for relief since Sound Transit refuses to provide it. Senate Bill 6303 is most responsive to this public outcry. Bringing tax relief to families who are being overcharged hundreds of dollars in unfair taxes should be a greater priority than protecting the political and financial interests of a public transit agency.