Democratic senators introduced five separate reforms today to address frustration surrounding how Sound Transit 3 is handling car tabs.
Senate Bill 5905, sponsored by Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, would adopt a new formula for assessing the value of vehicles taxed by Sound Transit on future bonds issued by accelerating the rate of depreciation.
“We all have a stake in building a world-class transportation system, but we must also ensure that those who can least afford it don’t shoulder an unfair burden – that’s what my bill is all about,” said Hobbs, the ranking member of the Senate Transportation Committee. “We must address the transit needs of our region and ensure greater transparency and accountability in working with Sound Transit. An undertaking of this magnitude is bound to find controversy along the way. I will remain open to all ideas that the public and Sound Transit bring forward.”
SB 5907, sponsored by Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, would direct transit agencies to improve coordination with Sound Transit and other agencies and show measurable progress as they integrate service with Sound Transit.
“As light rail grows, we want transit agencies to reallocate bus service so that our buses are feeding into rail stations rather than running the same routes served by rail,” said Liias, the assistant ranking member on the Senate Transportation Committee. “Our agencies need to work together seamlessly to make sure taxpayers get the best service for their dollars.”
SB 5908 and SB 5909, both sponsored by Sen. Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby, would increase accountability by: requiring notices of regional transit authority motor vehicle excise taxes and property taxes to include budget information and status of Sound Transit projects being funded by car tab fees; and directing county auditors to provide similar accountability statements on the status of Sound Transit projects to property taxpayers.
“As a former senior manager in the technology industry, I learned that if I didn’t keep my investors updated on how their projects were progressing, I would lose their trust,” said Sen. Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby. “The same can be said for government and its responsibility to be transparent and accountable to taxpayers. After all, taxpayers are essentially investors. That’s why I am directing county auditors and the Department of Licensing to provide information on the status of Sound Transit’s projects. People need to see their hard-earned dollars at work and be able to hold government accountable if projects aren’t being done on time or on budget.”
SB 5906, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Seattle, would allow Sound Transit to offer a rebate of up to 40 percent on car tab charges for low-income vehicle owners and a similar rebate of up to 40 percent on the property tax charge for Sound Transit 3 (ST3) for low-income homeowners.
“Like the overwhelming majority of the people in the 37th district, I strongly support more public transit options that come about through better community support and engagement,” Saldaña said. “Our district is made up of diverse, working people and families who are most impacted by our state’s upside down tax system. This bill aims to mitigate the effects of that broken system on fixed income adults and low-income folks who may need relief with some of the extra costs related to ST3 while ensuring we keep our district and region moving toward a cleaner and better transportation future.”