South County Politics: Liias says Senate Republicans’ stand on car-tax fees hurts families

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State Sen. Marko Liias

State Sen. Marko Liias said last week that Senate Republicans’ unwillingness to compromise on car-tax fees hurts the budgets of Washington families.

Liias, the Democratic minority floor leader, represents the 21st Legislative District, including most of Edmonds, unincorporated areas north of Edmonds and Lynnwood and northeast of Lynnwood, all of Mukilteo and part of south Everett.

His statement came after a party-line rejection Thursday of his amendment to a bill on Sound Transit car-tab fees.

He said that his amendment would have given car-tab tax relief to thousands of Washington families and preserve the will of voters in the Puget Sound area.

“Senate Democrats worked across party lines and with Sound Transit directly to find solutions to help taxpayers impacted by high car-tab fees,” Liias said. “We did this while working to maintain the will of the voters and the integrity of the transportation projects they supported in November.”

Voters in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties approved a measure in November that increased car-tab fees, along with property and sales taxes, to expand Sound Transit light rail.

“I am beyond disappointed that our plan was rejected by Senate Republicans,” Liias said.
“Passed instead was a bill that undermines the will of 54 percent of voters, jeopardizes transit projects and almost certainly will end up in court.

“Politics and ideology, rather than good government, won the day. In 2015, 16 Senate Republicans voted to authorize the same Sound Transit program they voted to undermine today.

Liias said that Senate Republicans’ response to this issue “has been just as bewildering as it is frustrating.

“They clearly understand there’s a problem, yet it seems they’re more interested in grandstanding and pointing fingers than providing tax relief,” he said.

“Again, 16 Senate Republicans who are members of the Senate today voted to raise the gas tax and give Sound Transit the authorization to collect taxes this way. If they want to assign blame, they don’t need to look very far.

“We will keep working toward a middle ground. We hope that at some point Senate Republicans will join us.”

Angela Harris

Political newcomer announces run for Edmonds Port Commission

Political newcomer Angela Harris, a senior business program manager at Microsoft, has registered her intention to run in 2017 elections for the position on the Edmonds Port Commission that Frederick Gouge now holds.

Harris recently registered with the state Public Disclosure Commission as a candidate for the position, a step that allows a candidate to raise and spend money for the coming elections.

Her campaign website is here.

Candidates file May 15-19 for positions on the Aug. 1 primary-election ballot or Nov. 7 general-election ballot. Positions with three or more candidates appear on the primary ballot, with the top two vote getters qualifying for the general election. Positions with only one or two candidates appear only on the general-election ballot.

Gouge said Monday that he isn’t yet ready to announce his intentions.

— By Evan Smith

Evan Smith can be reached at schsmith@frontier.com

6 COMMENTS

  1. “… they’re more interested in grandstanding and pointing fingers …” What are you doing with this article? Maybe this is a campaign ad?

    Hey, I have an idea – put some specifics in here rather than just generalities. Great waving of hands regarding how ST3 would be funded is how we got here in the first place (although I’m confident there was a detailed accounting of how much of the $54 Billion was coming from vehicle excise tax). So rather than pointing fingers back – why not give us the specifics of the Liias amendment?! Where was the money going to come from to offset the loss from reducing car tab fees?

    • I read.heard about where this is coming from. It was something like a contingency fund that Sound Transit has established, but hasn’t spent. It’s my understanding that the revenue lost, if this measure passed, doesn’t come out of any projects. However, given that the Senate has one “solution” and the House has another, we might not see either become law.

      • The fund targeted for the offset is the Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Account. According to the RCW, distributions from this account is used for “educational services to improve educational outcomes in early learning, K-12, and higher education including, but not limited to, for youths that are low-income, homeless, or in foster care, or other vulnerable populations.” Seems to me this proposal by Mr. Liias contradicts the title chosen by the author of this article.

  2. Brilliant political tactic. However, it took a significant public outcry for Senator Liias to even consider any action. At the March 6, 2017 Senate Transportation Committee meeting, which I found very informative on both sides of this issue (https://www.tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2017031072 27’50” in), sounding not too happy, the senator said “I would just start with an editorial comment that I’ve received twice as many emails on abolishing daylight savings time than on this issue (car tabs), so I hope this same committee holds a work session on this issue at 9 a.m. on a Monday (sarcasm dripping).” Note that the higher car tab fees just started March 1, 2017, so vehicle owners with tabs that expired that month had just starting receive their renewal notifications, but he failed to recognize that. I also noticed that neither the agency nor he seemed to care about the impacts on people. For instance, Senator Rossi, in the same meeting, said that a newly retired couple got hit with an $1,850 vehicle tab fee for their new recreational vehicle (45’24”), yet this information didn’t faze Mr. Liias. This is a large part of the problem: both the agency and the proponents aren’t able to see beyond their own financial circumstances, which can apparently easily absorb their new taxes and fees.

    Since the March meeting, the senator has apparently seen the political advantage to doing something, and now he’s gone a step further by turning around the argument on the Republicans, who started the dialogue about doing something to begin with, and whose solution would result in greater monetary relief! Senator Liias does make a good point that the Republicans’ solution may end up in court, though, while his solution may not. However, his initial stand – which appeared to be disinterest and insensitivity – was doing the most to “hurt families.”

    It was recently publicized that there were exceptions to the tax due to one of the most ardent supporters of going with the Republican’s solution (using the Kelley Blue Book or National Auto Dealers Association value) had his tab taxes go down on a vehicle this year, as it was exempted from ST-3 taxation. It seems to me that eliminating exceptions might be an area where relief could be found for the great majority of us who don’t qualify.

    • I find Marko’s concern for family budgets completely laughable. Remember, he is one that spearheaded the 405 toll debacle. Every day I see that $10 toll I curse his name.

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