Weekend closures, lane restrictions impact SR 99, I-5 and I-90

DOL offices see driver meltdowns over high car tabs, as lawmakers grapple for solutions

RENTON, Wash. — When it comes to the controversial increases in car tab fees, 2018 is starting off just like 2017.

The year is beginning with a legislative battle that sounds very familiar to anyone who was here this time last year.

The constituents continue to gripe over high car tabs and lawmakers are trying to come up with new ways to alleviate the old issue.

For employees at licensing branches, renewing car tabs lately is an emotional business.

“We've been yelled at, we've been screamed at,” employee Michelle Mackner said.

Some car owners are having meltdowns at the lobby of the licensing department in Renton after learning their car tabs have shot up.

“Anger, sadness, confusion, we had people storm out and storm back in,” Mackner said.

On the contrary on Friday, Dennis Blackwell was calm but he still has strong feelings about the cost of the tab fees for his 2016 Chrysler 300.

“This year it doubled to $425,” Blackwell said.

Now state Rep. Kristine Reeves, D-Federal Way, is sponsoring a bill to make the fees more manageable.

“As a voter we have approved this investment (in light rail extensions), so let’s make it a little bit more affordable,” Reeves said.

If your car tabs are less than $200, Reeves' bill does not apply to you -- but if it's more, you will have two options. Those options come in the form of a payment plan. Drivers can choose to pay off their car tabs in two or four payments a year.

“It's better than the lump payment that a lot of people can't afford,” driver David Hudson said.

“I don't think we need a payment plan; let's just get them reasonable,” Blackwell said.

The political fight in Olympia is skewing towards the Democrats, who now control both the House and Senate, and right now Democrats are not in favor of drastic cuts to car tabs.

“Taxpayers will rebel at such a modest, really insignificant relief,” Republican state Sen. Steve O’Ban said.

The votes are stacked against O’Ban's fight against regional light rail expansion, which is at the root of these high car tabs.

Still, O’Ban said, he isn’t giving up.

“I think we will be back here again, looking at my bill to pass more genuine comprehensive tax relief,” O’Ban said.

That's what Blackwell says his family needs.

“It’s not about the Democrat, Republicans -- it’s about the American way feeding your family,” Blackwell said.

And that basic responsibility is getting harder.

“I don't see myself in this area too much longer, taxes have gone up,” Blackwell said.

Meaning we'll see more emotional moments at the licensing center.

Mackner says on average she has seen most car tabs almost triple with newer and more expensive cars getting hit the hardest.

“Currently I am working on a brand new Acura -- the RTA tax is $1,635 because it's a high-end sports car,” Mackner said.

Car tabs are higher because the state is valuing vehicles using MSRP rather than fair market value, like Kelley Blue Book. Democratic state Rep. Mike Pellicciotti is trying to change the way car tabs are calculated so fees go down.

The decrease will depend on the car and overall Pellicciotti says it will return $780 million to taxpayers over 10 years.

But Republicans like O'Ban say the decreases are too modest and not aggressive enough.