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State outlines changes to car tab fees after I-976 approval

The Washington Department of Licensing released a fact sheet outlining some changes I-976 will have on licensing fees.

There is now more clarity on how much Washington drivers will pay when they renew their car tabs after Initiative 976 goes into effect.

Voters approved the initiative that caps car tabs fees to $30 during the Nov. 5 general election.

The Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) released a fact sheet this week outlining some changes I-976 will have to vehicle licensing fees.

Starting on Dec. 5, 2019, the initiative lowers the vehicle weight fee, electric vehicle fee, snowmobile registration, and commercial trailer fee to $30.

I-976 eliminates the passenger weight fee, motorhome weight fee, transportation benefit district fee, and the 0.3% vehicle retail sales/use tax.

Also see | I-976 fallout: No plan to delay or defer Sound Transit projects under contract

The DOL said I-976 only affected the licensing fees listed above. Drivers will still be charged common fees like the $8 service fee, $4.50 filing fee, $0.25 license plate technology fee, and the $0.50 DOL license service fee.

Any possible changes to the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) tax that goes towards Sound Transit projects are not yet effective, the DOL said. Earlier this month a DOL spokesperson told KING 5 that car owners in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties will continue to pay the Sound Transit RTA tax until March 31, 2020.

If your vehicle registration is due before Dec. 5, the DOL said you should pay the amount listed on your renewal notice.

Drivers whose car tabs expire before Dec. 5 and wait to renew their registration until I-976 takes effect will not save any money. The DOL said fees will remain the same for all vehicle registrations that expire before Dec. 5. However, the DOL said it is developing a refund process and will inform drivers who will get a refund.

Also see | Government agencies call I-976 'poorly drafted hodge-podge' in lawsuit

At least one lawsuit has already been filed to prevent I-976 from taking effect. The state’s budget office estimates the passage of I-976 eliminates more than $4 billion in tax revenue by 2025. Sound Transit is preparing for up to $20 billion in losses for future transportation projects.

More than 60 cities use car tab fees to pay for road construction, bus service, and sidewalks. In addition, the state charges fees to help pay for a variety of programs including Washington State Patrol traffic enforcement, highway maintenance, ferry operations and maintenance of county roads and bridges.

In Pierce County, I-976 could disrupt a plan for a $60 million Bus Rapid Transit project that would run along Pacific Avenue in Tacoma. The measure could also slash $2 million per year from Pierce County Transit’s paratransit program.

The DOL said it is still “working to understand the effects of this lawsuit and any injunctions that may be issued.”

Click here for more renewal and registration fee information from the DOL.