Business organizations share concerns about I-976

Those against the initiative say I-976 could have ‘devastating consequences’ if passed

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Courtesy of mons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74503344 Initiative 976, which will be on the November ballot, would “repeal, reduce, or remove authority to impose certain vehicle taxes and fees; limit annual motor-vehicle-license fees to $30, except voter-approved charges; and base vehicle taxes on Kelley Blue Book value.”

Recently, three business organizations in the Clark County area released a joint statement urging voters to vote “no” on Initiative Measure No. 976 that will be on the ballot this November.

I-976, which concerns motor vehicle taxes and fees, would “repeal, reduce, or remove authority to impose certain vehicle taxes and fees; limit annual motor-vehicle-license fees to $30, except voter-approved charges; and base vehicle taxes on Kelley Blue Book value.”

The initiative has earned united opposition from three business organizations in Clark County – the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce (GVCC), the Columbia River Economic Development Council (CREDC) and Identity Clark County (ICC). The three business organizations, representing more than 1,400 employers and approaching 15,000 jobs, are joining forces and their collective voices to raise awareness of the “devastating consequences” should I-976 pass this November, according to a Sept. 30 news release from the organizations.

In a joint statement, leaders of the three business organizations John McDonagh (GVCC), Jennifer Baker (CREDC) and Ron Arp (ICC) respectively, said: “We invite every voter in Southwest Washington to join us in voting ‘no’ on I-976. Every one of us depends on a well-maintained transportation system to support safe movement of people, freight and commerce.”

According to the Fiscal Impact Statement of I-976 in the Washington State Elections and Clark County Voters’ Pamphlet: “Initiative 976 changes vehicle taxes and fees by lowering motor vehicle and light duty truck weight fees to $30; eliminating the 0.3% sales tax on vehicle purchases; lowering electric vehicle and snowmobile fees; modifying and reducing Sound Transit motor vehicle excise tax provisions; and removing authority for transportation benefit districts to impose a vehicle fee.”

“Total revenue loss to the state in the next six years is $1,921,901,238. Total revenue loss to local governments in the next six years is $2,317,121,034.”

According to the statement released by GVCC, CREDC and ICC, I-976 blocks the future use of this “critical funding tool” for local jurisdictions and will also put an immediate halt on projects supported by the license tab fees revenue – projects underway and those anticipated in the near future.

The joint statement from the GVCC, CREDC and ICC pointed out several local impacts that would be seen immediately should I-976 succeed, including:

  • Cancellation of long-delayed maintenance and repair of streets and roadways throughout the county, which may lead to further deterioration of the roadways and possible loss of jobs associated with these projects;
  • Cancellation or delay of crosswalk improvements and upgrade projects, and;
  • Cancellation of tab-based funding to C-Tran putting at risk some regular routes as well as special needs programs, paratransit and youth opportunity passes.

As far as local revenues are concerned, this initiative repeals local authority to impose a TBD vehicle fee. According to the Fiscal Impact Statement in the voters’ pamphlet, TBD vehicle fees are used by 62 municipalities across the state to fund local improvements such as road repair and maintenance, transit systems and sidewalks. In fiscal year 2018, TBDs using a vehicle fee across the state collected $58,186,839, which is revenue that would be eliminated beginning on the effective date of I-976.

According to the joint statement from the GVCC, CREDC and ICC: “Now is the time to recognize the tremendous value this funding tool creates for us all and the critical need to retain the ability to use this tool now and in the future. It is not the time to pull back and allow our transportation infrastructure to further deteriorate. Our local transportation system must be maintained and improved to support our growing population and our economy; the way forward is through sustaining, rather than eliminating, policy tools which can be dedicated sources of transportation funding.”

According to the Argument For I-976 in the voters’ pamphlet: “Taxing a $10,000 vehicle like it’s $25,000 is fraud. I-976 repeals the dishonest valuation schedule politicians are currently using to artificially inflate your taxes. No more price gouging.”

“I-976 limits license tabs to a flat, fair, and reasonable $30 per year for your car, truck, motorcycle, motorhome, and other vehicles,” the Argument For continues. “We’re paying sales tax when we buy, gas taxes when we use, we shouldn’t have to pay dishonest triple taxes just to own it. Working class folks, not just rich people, should be able to afford a newer vehicle.”

In addition to the GVCC, CREDC and ICC joint statement against I-976, the Argument Against I-976 in the voters’ pamphlet states that the initiative “threatens transportation safety,” citing that Washington has over 160 bridges and overpasses in “poor” condition, and that I-976 jeopardizes public safety, delaying projects to fix dilapidated bridges, overpasses, and tunnels that do not meet earthquake safety standards.

To learn more about I-976, find the voters’ pamphlet on the Clark County Elections web page, www.clark.wa.gov/elections.

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Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start ClarkCountyToday.com.