Proposal could let cities back out of Sound Transit deal — and car-tab sticker shock

TACOMA, Wash. — Call it Brexit for Sound Transit.

You’ve seen the sticker shock — and if you haven’t, it’ll be hitting your mailbox soon enough.

“They didn’t tell voters the true story about this car tab tax,” said state Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place.

He wants accountability and maybe a do-over of sorts for last year’s Sound Transit 3 initiative.

Voters approved the deal to raise more than $54 billion for mass transit expansion.

But was it sold to the public in a deceptive way?

“I think as people start to understand that better, they’re a little less impressed with what they’re getting for their taxes,” O’Ban said.

O'Ban said he learned from his legislative hearings and investigation that the car tab tax boost wasn't explained well to lawmakers or the public.

It uses an older way of valuing a car -- MSRP -- rather than current Kelly Blue Book. Newer cars have much higher tabs.

"So that clearly in my view was a 'sin of omission' shall we say," O'Ban said.

The agency defended itself time and again, saying voters should have done more research.

"I really take exception to the fact that we tried to do this as some might say in a backroom way, we were very transparent," said Auburn Mayor and Sound Transit board member Nancy Backus in March.

So O'Ban wants to let voters potentially break apart Sound Transit 3 entirely.

He will sponsor a bill to let cities and counties vote to leave ST 3 and make it retroactive.

There's no research yet on this  idea to stay or remain part of Sound Transit.

It would undercut funding for light rail and busing, though, by billions.

O'Ban was asked about that plan being seen as overturning the will of the voters.

"Well, not in Pierce County," he said with a laugh.

Voters in Pierce County did reject it, but overall ST 3 won by eight points, where it was also on the ballot in Snohomish and King counties.

People knew it was a tax increase for transit and it passed with a mandate.

O'Ban and the GOP have been criticized as grandstanding on the issue against Sound Transit rather than actual reform.

"I think, these sorts of issues are, you have to play the long game. I think people have to be educated and informed," he said in response.

O'Ban knows this is a sensitive and controversial subject. He says voters should get a second chance.

"We don't want to be part of your district and we want to go our own way."