OLYMPIA — Tim Eyman was the only person to testify in favor of his “Bring Back Our $30 Car Tabs” initiative before the state Senate and House transportation committees.
The panels heard testimony on Initiative 976 on Feb. 26. The Legislature has the option to propose an alternative to the initiative which would appear alongside the initiative on the November ballot.
“I think that the fact that the voters have voted for it over and over again and their elected officials both at the state level and the local level aren’t willing to accept that decision, I think gets people kind of ornery,” Eyman said.
I-976 would repeal, reduce or remove the ability to impose a variety of vehicle taxes and fees except for those that are voter approved.
It would also require the use of Kelley Blue Book values as a basis for vehicle taxes.
“It wasn’t the money, it was the fact that gosh darn it these dirty dogs they’re not listening to me, and let’s kick them in the shins one more time,” Eyman said. “I mean that seemed to be the sentiment [of voters].”
Pete Stark is the chairman of the small and medium transport caucus and general manager of Whatcom Transportation Authority. He testified against the bill.
Many of the taxes that would be repealed under I-976 go into the Multimodal Transportation Fund.
Grants from this fund go to rural transportation services, transportation alternatives, public transit and services provided by nonprofits, among other uses, Stark said.
“Multimodal grant programs are essential to the rural transportation systems in Washington state, some of which get as much as 40 percent of their funding or more from this program,” Stark said.
Approximately 40 percent of the public transit ridership in Whatcom County does not have an alternative form of transportation, Stark said.
Justin Layton, from the Washington State Transit Association, testified in “clear and staunch” opposition to the initiative.
He said the initiative “is a false premise to our community which offers a loaded question on the people without any clear impacts of what it really means,” Layton said. It “would mean the elimination of all grant programs that provide financial assistance to transit agencies around the state no matter what community they are in.”
There are no clear funding alternatives for these programs that would not result in cost increases to public transit, Layton said.
If I-976 passes, local governments would lose approximately $116 million, according to a state House staff report. Currently, Sound Transit collects $328 million per year in motor vehicle excise taxes, according to the fiscal impact report.
Eyman has been proposing and passing a variety of initiatives since 1999 starting with Initiative 695, called the Washington Voter Approval for Tax Increases. I-695 limited license tab fees to $30 and was overturned by the State Supreme Court in 2000 because it was not limited to one subject, a requirement of all initiatives.
Another Eyman matter
Eyman frequently makes headlines regarding his relationship with the Legislature.
Most recently, he was charged with stealing a $70 chair from an Office Depot in Lacey. Eyman posted a video on YouTube on Feb. 20 showing him attempting to pay for or return the chair.
The store manager told Eyman he was not allowed to film inside the store and that the manner was being handled by the police. In his video, Eyman said stealing the chair “wasn’t intentional.”
Eyman opened his public testimony in the Senate by quipping, “Are you sure you want me to take a chair?” in response to the committee chairman telling Eyman to pull up a chair.
This story is part of a series of news reports from the Washington State Legislature provided through a reporting internship sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.