OLYMPIA – A report on car tab payment options is available to the public now. The Joint Transportation Committee (JTC) received legislative direction to convene a Vehicle Registration Payment Options Workgroup to analyze payment options for vehicle fees and publish a report.

“I appreciate the approach we took to analyze this issue,” said Sen. T’wina Nobles (D-Fircrest), who spearheaded the effort during the 2020 legislative session in response to requests from her community. “We used surveys and focus groups to center community members and hear from those directly affected.”

The JTC contracted with BERK Consulting to study the issue and explore options. The study was guided by an eight-member stakeholder workgroup consisting of representatives from:

  • Department of Licensing,
  • County Auditors,
  • Vehicle Licensing Subagents,
  • Regional Transit Authority,
  • A city offering or considering a rebate program,
  • Vehicle owners subject to a motor vehicle excise tax,
  • Vehicle owners subject to an electric car or transportation electrification fee, ​and
  • An advocate for multimodal transportation options.

The study addressed the questions: “Could the State reduce the impact of registration tax and fee payment on households with low incomes by offering a payment plan? If so, how could that payment plan be structured?”

BERK Consulting found that 77% of survey respondents preferred annual registration payments rather than quarterly. They also identified high financial costs for State Department of Licensing (DOL) to develop and administer a payment plan — a cost that would require significant investment from the State. Additionally, a quarterly payment system would require a service fee, a key reason respondents preferred an annual payment plan.

“Community members are still experiencing hardship due to lasting effects from the pandemic, shortages, and overwhelmingly, inflation,” said Nobles. “What this means is that we need to continue assessing the most effective strategies to reduce the burden on lower-income families and community members. We’ll continue to analyze different strategies with experts and, of course, with community.”

BERK Consulting advised three recommendations:

  1. Do not pursue a payment plan.
  2. Enhance email reminders and launch text message reminders for vehicle registration renewals.
  3. Consider other ways of supporting households with low incomes.

The 2023 legislative session will reconvene in January to consider legislation and draft the state transportation budget for the coming biennium.