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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I would like to thank everyone who has contacted me over the past several weeks with concerns about Sound Transit 3 (ST3). Many people shared their growing concern about the big increases they've seen in their car tab fees, property and sales taxes due to ST3.
I've shared your stories and worked hard to urge other lawmakers to support reforms. However, despite my efforts, and the efforts of many of my colleagues in the House, most of the solutions we called for were rejected. Read my statement over the failure of House to approve needed Sound Transit reforms. Here's a quick replay of what happened.
During a late evening session last Wednesday, the House transportation budget was introduced. Several solutions I helped create were offered for consideration. These amendments include, basing the MVET on Kelley Blue Book, or the National Automobile Dealers Association, whichever is lower. Another would prohibit the Department of Licensing from collecting motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) from residents or cities that choose to opt-out of Sound Transit. Another would allow cities and counties to opt-out of Sound Transit altogether (something many people from our district have urged me to propose). Still another, would stop Sound Transit from issuing any new bonds without first receiving Legislative approval. None of the options offered would affect the projects themselves, just the way they are paid for.
Unfortunately, of the five amendments offered, the House majority party refused to hear four, and rejected the other on a party-line vote. Read more about the Sound Transit amendments. Instead, they brought forward their own version of a plan.
House Bill 2201 offers vehicle owners a small rebate on their car tabs, but it's not much. Here's an example. Based on the current formula, if you own a 2017 Honda accord EX sedan (standard) you'll pay approximately $207 in Sound Transit fees. With the House Bill 2201, you'll pay $176. That will save you $31.
By switching to Kelley Blue Book value, which is the plan I helped put together, the car tab fees would be around $129. That's a savings of $78. Read this one page brief that demonstrates the differences in the approaches to Sound Transit reform.
I did my best to get approval on amendments to make this bill better. However, each amendment was either “scoped” out of consideration, meaning lawmakers didn't get to vote on the it, or was rejected on a party-line vote. Watch a video of each of the Sound Transit amendments I offered during floor debate.
Because I understand the kind of impact these fees have on hard-working individuals and families, it was extremely difficult to see each of my amendments blocked.
House Bill 2201 now moves to the Senate. They'll have another opportunity to amend the proposal. I voted “yes” on this bill for a couple reasons. First, I'm hoping the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus will get the needed ST3 reforms added. Second, if their efforts fail (which I hope they do not) at least people will get a small amount of help with their fees.
There was one bright spot during the floor action last week. My bill prohibiting ST3 from levying taxes on anything less than an entire parcel of property was unanimously approved by the House. This legislation would ensure owners of property partly inside, and partly outside, the regional transit authority boundaries won't have to pay the ST3 taxes. This applies to dozens of properties in Pierce and King counties. The bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration. Read more about House Bill 1958.
Putting the brakes on I-405 express lane tolling
The two-year trial period for the I-405 express lane tolling is coming to a close. According to the high number of emails and calls I continue to get on this, traffic congestion is not getting better. The state has reported it is still not meeting the 45 mph flow, 90 percent of the time threshold required by federal and state law. And, although the minimum charge is 75 cents, motorists often see the maximum $10 toll sign. Watch my floor speeches advocating for the end of express lane tolling on I-405.
That's why I sponsored two amendments that would have taken away funding for the I-405 Toll Lanes Operations Account in the transportation budget. Unfortunately, each amendment was narrowly defeated by a vote of 48-49. Read more about my amendments to stop tolling on I-405
Thank you for allowing me to be your voice in Olympia. For those of you who are frustrated with Sound Transit, you are not alone. I will continue to advocate for change. Please continue calling and emailing me about this issue. People need, and deserve, real relief.
466 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7892 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000