Opinion

Maybe this time tabs will stay $30

Probably No. 1 on the Democratic party wish list, as well as some Republicans (Gov. Dan Evans comes to mind), is a state income tax.

It requires voter approval, so every few years its backers offer up a package of temptations they hope will appeal to them, i.e., elimination or reduction of property taxes, sales taxes and/or business taxes; changes to other methods such as added value taxes, etc. And they get absolutely nowhere.

The last thing the people of this state will do is vote an income tax on themselves because they do not trust their legislators to maintain their end of the deal.

There is no better example of the faithlessness of those who do the spending for government than what happened with the $30 car tab, which will be back before us this fall if Tim Eyman gets the signatures to put an initiative for it on the ballot.

When Initiative 695 appeared in 1999, it was received by the movers and shakers — business, labor, politicians, the media — as if its effect would be akin to the Great Depression of the 1920s and ’30s. Daily headlines warned “Crisis,” “Financial Hurricane,” “State ferry system will cease to run within three years,” “Deep cuts in bus services,” “A huge step backward in relieving traffic congestion,” “Police supervising domestic violence offenders will be cut,” etc.

Nonetheless, it passed overwhelmingly. People were sick and tired of paying hundreds and thousands of dollars in vehicle fees each year and having their pleas for relief ignored. Implementation of I-695 was delayed when its constitutionality was questioned, but a shocked Gov. Gary Locke and 2000 Legislature got the message and went ahead and hastily passed a bill authorizing $30 tabs on their own.

“$30 license tabs are here to stay,” declared Locke. “We should carry out the people’s will and make sure that we keep the tabs at $30.”

“I don’t think you’re going to find anyone around here who’s against the $30 car tabs,” said Rep. Brian Thomas (R-Renton).

“The car tabs won’t rise under any circumstances,” said Sen. Erik Poulson (D-Seattle).

I don’t know whether it was the finding of I-695 to be unconstitutional (because it had two subjects, the other requiring a vote of the people on all tax increases) or just natural greed, but legislators and government officials forgot their eagerness in acquiescing to the wishes of the voters and started piling fees on the $30 tab, despite the fact the fallout from it wasn’t as dire as they had predicted before the election.

A determined Eyman took it back to the voters in 2002, and the voters once again said the $30 tab is what they wanted and this time its constitutionality was upheld.

Still, the $30 tab kept and keeps rising.

He’s had enough, says Eyman. “The question often is asked, ‘Why $30?’ I think the voters made a decision. They look upon it as a registration fee for a vehicle while the legislators are using it as a revenue source. If you own a motor home, a Mercedes or a ’67 Chevy, the paperwork is the same.

“People already pay more for heavier vehicles through the gas tax. They pay more for expensive vehicles with the sales tax. We just want everybody to pay a flat, reasonable $30. Those who complain about regressive taxes don’t mind taxes on cigarettes and alcohol which hurt the poor more than they do the rich.”

Lawmakers won’t have to deal with any loss of funds until the new initiative, if it passes, takes effect Dec. 6, said Eyman. “They can move the money around from other accounts. They can still do what they want, just don’t do it with our $30 car tab.”

Adele Ferguson can be reached at PO Box 69, Hansville, WA, 98340.

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