Car tab battle heats up as coalition forms against $30 car tab proposal

SEATTLE – Opponents of a voter initiative to limit how much you pay for car tabs have formed a statewide coalition to campaign against I-976.

I-976 is an initiative that limits the annual license fees for vehicles, commonly referred to as car tabs. It's on the ballot for the Nov. 5 election.

If voters approve the measure, owners of vehicles that are under 10,000 pounds will pay a car tab of $30.

On Wednesday, city, state and transportation leaders said cutting this funding will have a major ripple effect.

“This will have catastrophic, and I mean catastrophic, impacts on Seattle and our regional transportation system,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. “It will hurt our regional transit system by cutting almost 350,000 bus hours. It would jeopardize our ability to have light rail when we need it.”

Opponents of the bill say without car tabs, $20 billion in funding is at risk for the Sound Transit’s multi-county light rail expansion.

Millions of dollars in funding would also be on the line for special needs transportation and for cities that rely on the money generated for road construction, maintenance and local transit service.

Tim Eyman, a longtime anti-tax activist, is a co-sponsor of I-976. He accuses Sound Transit of inflating the value of vehicles to generate more revenue than they should.

“The reality is with a $3.5 billion tax surplus, they have more than enough money to back-fill any affected government program under this, and that’s exactly what’s going to end up happening," he said.

If voters say yes to I-976 on November’s ballot, they’re voting to change the current car tab calculation system and keep tabs at $30 for vehicles under 10,000 pounds.

If voters say no, they’re voting to keep the current car tab calculation system.

“I’m kind of okay with it,” said Laurie Way, who has a $924 car tab. “I knew when I bought this car it was probably going to be more expensive insurance, more expensive tabs that kind of thing.”

“When the new car tabs renewed, it was over $300. That’s just crazy,” said John Davenport. “My friend who lives in Eastern Washington, his car tabs are $60.”