Washington state Nov. 5 ballot to include vehicle license fee roll back question

October 23, 2019

Keith Goble


Voters in the state of Washington will decide in less than two weeks 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 for state and local transportation work.

The money is used for projects that include highway construction, county roads and bridges, commercial vehicle enforcement, and pedestrian projects.

Initiative 976 on the Nov. 5 ballot 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 also would 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 Additionally, authorization would be repealed for certain regional transit authorities to impose motor vehicle excise taxes.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 vehicle license 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 on vehicle license fees. 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 vehicle license 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, only voters would be permitted to increase vehicle license fees in the future.

Other Land Line Media coverage of Washington state

The state of Washington has been in the news quite a bit recently.

In early October, Land Line reported on the Washington Trucking Associations pushing for a ruling that the Evergreen State’s meal and rest break rules are preempted by federal law.

In a late September report, attorneys general in 10 states want the Trump administration to overturn a new Washington state law that essentially bans Bakken crude oil.

Also in September, Land Line reported on the Washington state Legislature suing Gov. Jay Inslee over transportation budget vetoes.