Washington House Republicans roll out plan to implement $30 car tabs, establish new funding source for transportation – without raising taxes

Barkis: “We have put solutions on the table that would respect the will of the voters and meet future transportation needs.”

Washington House Republicans have unveiled a plan that would implement $30 car tabs, establish a new funding source for transportation and cut bureaucracy at the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). The plan would not rely on any new tax increases.

Nearly 53% of voters statewide supported I-976 in the November election. However, lawsuits have been filed to overturn the initiative.

“Washingtonians have spoken on car tabs and it's the job of the Legislature and governor to respond,” said Rep. Andrew Barkis, ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee. “We need to put policy over politics. This means implementing 30-dollar car tabs, establishing a permanent account for preservation and maintenance, and setting priorities at WSDOT. We have put solutions on the table that would respect the will of the voters and meet future transportation needs.”

House Bill 2227 would limit state and local taxes, fees and other charges relating to vehicles, and establish $30 car tabs. The measure is sponsored by Rep. Jesse Young, assistant ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee.

“Regardless of what some elected officials might think, we are not chosen to be kings. We are elected as public servants. It's our job to listen and then work hard to find solutions,” said Young, R-Gig Harbor. “The voters have clearly spoken on this issue, and the Legislature should honor the will of the people.”

Washington House Republicans acknowledge that the implementation of I-976 would create a transportation revenue shortfall. The Office of Financial Management's fiscal impact statement for the initiative says it will reduce revenue by $478 million.

“Our state needs a stable, permanent transportation funding source,” said Rep. Drew MacEwen, assistant ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.

House Bill 2323, sponsored by MacEwen, would phase in a shift of state sales tax on motor vehicles to pay for cash-based preservation and maintenance projects in increments of 10% for 10 years. This approach would generate an estimated $117.5 million in revenue for transportation in 2021.

“Vehicle sales-tax revenue has a direct nexus to transportation and would not be a new tax burden on Washingtonians,” added MacEwen, R-Union. “If we implement this reform over time, our operating budget could absorb the change and we would address the preservation and maintenance needs of our transportation system for years to come.”

House Bill 2285, sponsored by Rep. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley, would also make preservation and maintenance a priority for transportation goals by taking care of the existing system rather than funding new services.  

Washington House Republicans also believe more should be expected from Gov. Inslee and his WSDOT in adjusting to I-976 fiscal realities. They believe the agency should be able to cut bureaucracy – not projects – to maximize existing tax dollars. Implementing 10% targeted reductions in transportation spending – without impacting preservation, maintenance and special needs – could result in $269.7 million in savings.

Rep. Jim Walsh, ranking Republican on the House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee, says it is time for Gov. Inslee to be a part of the solution – not the problem. Last year, following the 2019 legislative session, Inslee unilaterally increased transportation spending for fish-barrier removal by $100 million.

“Governor Inslee should join us in developing state transportation solutions that are truly progressive – that is, innovative and forward-looking. The old, stale tactic of threatening good projects with the chopping block isn't necessary,” said Walsh, R-Aberdeen. “We can – and must – do better. We've got the plan. We just need our colleagues, including the governor, to put the people's voice ahead of partisan agendas.”

House Bill 2194, sponsored by Walsh, would restrict executive discretion in adjusting transportation budgets. 

The 2020 legislative session began on Jan. 13 and will run 60 consecutive days.


Washington State House Republican Communications