2/11/2016Washington Initiative Strikes Back At Auto Registration Fees
Washington state initiative guru heads to the ballot to fight rising automobile registration fees.
Washington state voters have a chance to tell lawmakers in Olympia to stop raising automobile registration fees. The activists at Voters Want More Choices took to the capitol building on Monday to launch Initiative 1421, entitled "Bring back our $30 car tabs" to fight the gradual addition of fees and taxes to the cost of registering a car. The measure would state unambiguously that state and local governments may not charge more than $30 a year to register a car, motorcycle or motor home, thwarting state and local plans to raise fees in July.
"We've voted for this over and over again," initiative co-sponsor Tim Eyman told TheNewspaper. "But you guys don't seem to listen."
In 1999, 56 percent of voters approved $30 state car tabs with Initiative 695, but special interest groups funded by higher taxes found a lower court judge willing to overturn the popular will. King County Superior Court Judge Robert Alsdorf ruled that the measure violated the "single subject" rule, a state constitutional provision that prohibits bills from covering more than one topic. It had never before been applied to ballot initiatives. After the Washington Supreme Court upheld the ruling, the governor and legislature were quick to emphasize that the $30 registration fees would stay.
In Washington state, initiatives only hold the full force of law for two years, after which the legislature can chip away at the provisions. Eyman came back in 2002 with Initiative 776, which brought back the $30 car tabs in a single-subject initiative that also capped local car fees. Now fees have gradually been raised to $60, $90 or even $250, depending on where they live. The biggest tax is the motor vehicle excise tax applied in the Puget Sound region by Sound Transit, which is set to rise by $25 billion this year.
"Seattle-centric Sound Transit is, by far, the most arrogant, unaccountable government agency in our state's history," Eyman said. "They're forcing taxpayers outside Seattle to pay for their multi-billion dollar choo choo train boondoggles in Seattle."
Initiative backers have until July 8 to gather 246,372 signatures to qualify for the November ballot, in time to head off a number of planned increases. Eyman is confident the initiative can pass if it qualifies for the ballot.
"We've won every time, they've lost every time," Eyman said. "This time we're going to voters saying we gotta do this now, because state government's gone hog wild, Sound Transit's about to go hog wild, and cities now are starting to jack up car tab taxes more and more. We need to go back and do another initiative that says $30 is $30."