Harmsworth calls for Legislature to act on Sound Transit 3 car-tab relief

Rep. Mark Harmsworth, R-Mill Creek, is calling on the Legislature to act before the conclusion of the third special legislative session on bills proposed to bring relief to taxpayers on high car-tab fees caused by Sound Transit 3 (ST3). The nearly $54 billion ST3 project would expand the existing light rail system from Seattle to several surrounding suburbs. The local portion of the measure is partially funded by increases in the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET).

Harmsworth says many people in his district have been shocked by the increase in their car-tab fees. He adds, the public has expressed outrage over the formula used to calculate the fees, which overvalues most vehicles. The lawmaker has championed several measures aimed at reforming the ST3 fee schedule.

“It’s time for the Legislature to act. Here we are at the end of the third special session, and there is still no fix in place,” said Harmsworth. “Taxpayers have come to us for help, we need to respond.”

House Bill 2168, sponsored by Harmsworth at the beginning of the regular legislative session, would have lowered the MVET and provided for a vehicle valuation method based on Kelley Blue Book, or the National Dealers Association, whichever is lower. In addition, the bill would restrict the Washington State Department of Licensing from contracting with Sound Transit for collection of the car-tab taxes unless the tax is based solely on the vehicle valuation method outlined in the bill.

Unfortunately, Harmsworth’s proposal was blocked from progressing in the House. However, a companion bill was introduced by members of the Senate. Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, and Sen. Dino Rossi, R-Federal Way, sponsored Senate Bill 5893. The proposal was passed by the Senate chamber, April 6.

“The Senate and the House have approved separate solutions. However, the House response has been tepid in comparison to what the Senate proposed,” continued Harmsworth. “We need real relief, which is why the O’Ban and Rossi bill is the way to go.”

House Bill 2201, sponsored by the House majority party, would reimburse taxpayers the difference between 2006 and 1995 MVET car valuations, the current formula being used by ST3. The proposal, which passed the House on April 12, gives some relief to taxpayers. However, the savings for taxpayers is less significant than the bills put forward by Harmsworth, and the Senate.

“Special interest groups are putting a lot of pressure on the Legislature. There are solutions that will work and still maintain the projects that were put on the ballot for Sound Transit,” continued Harmsworth. “They are not being realistic about what the average working person can afford to pay. As a result, we’ve seen rejection on anything that is a reasonable compromise. We need to keep in mind we represent the people, not special interest groups.”


Washington State House Republican Communications