Washington state ballot to include vehicle fee roll back question

August 12, 2019

Keith Goble


Voters in the state of Washington will decide this fall whether to roll back “car tabs,” vehicle sales taxes and other fees. According to a fiscal analysis, the fees totaled $58 million one year ago.

The money is used for state and local transportation work. Projects include highway construction, county roads and bridges, commercial vehicle enforcement, and pedestrian projects.

Initiative 976 would cap vehicle license fees, or car tabs, at $30 yearly. The annual license fees are collected on vehicles weighing under 10,000 pounds.

Commercial trailer fees would also be reduced from $34 to $30, and an electric vehicle fee would be trimmed from $150 to $30. Additionally, authorization would be repealed for certain regional transit authorities to impose motor vehicle excise taxes.

A fiscal impact summary shows that changes to the fees could result in more than $4 billion in lost revenue over the next six years.

In 1999 and 2002, voters approved the $30 cap. A measure approved by voters in 2016, however, raised the annual fees.

Initiative supporters say that a lot of people had “sticker shock” following the tab increase. They say people experienced car-tab fees doubling, and in some cases the fees tripled.

Opponents say capping fees at $30 would strip state and local governments’ ability to move forward with needed projects. Specifically, they say passage of Initiative 976 would result in $2.3 billion in lost funding for local governments. The state would lose out on $1.9 billion over the same time period.

If the initiative is approved this November, only voters would be permitted to increase car tabs in the future.



Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.