Where things stand with proposals to lower car tab fees

by: Graham Johnson Updated:

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Relief could be on the way for drivers upset about paying higher car tab fees to fund light rail.

But now transit advocates are worried voters won't get the expansion they expected when they passed Sound Transit 3 in November.

Some drivers don't like the way Sound Transit calculates car tab fees because the agency does not follow market value, like Kelley Blue Book, and instead uses a system that doesn't depreciate new cars as quickly.

The state House and Senate have come up with competing car tab bills.

The bill that passed the Democrat-controlled House would give refunds to car owners by using an alternative state calculation that's closer to market value.

The bill that passed the Republican-controlled Senate would switch to a market-based valuation for cars and would also lower the tax rate.

So, according to a legislative analysis, the owner of a 2013 Honda Accord, who now has a car tab bill of $187, would see that bill drop to $118 in the House version and $60 in the Senate version.  

Sound Transit estimates the House version would cost $2.2 billion in revenue.

The agency estimates the Senate version would cost at least $12 billion.

The House version directs Sound Transit to first cut parking from the ST3 plan in an effort to preserve light rail expansion.

Transit advocates are very upset with House Democrats who they say caved to pressure about car tabs and sold out the ST3 plan.

They are calling on the governor to veto any measure that doesn't deliver the plan approved by voters.

House and Senate negotiators will now try to reconcile their competing bills before the Legislature adjourns.