Housing and Social Justice advocates oppose Prop 1 $60 car tab hike
by John Fox and David Bloom
By defeating this $60 Car Tab Hike, we can send a strong message that it's NOT OK to continually hit low income people, working families, and seniors with excessive and colossally regressive charges, taxes, and add-ons like this every time there is a shortfall - especially not while they are giving away literally millions in (MFTE) property tax breaks to large corporate developers (to the tune of over 35 million just in the last nine months and at current rates the giveaway will reach $150 million by 2013!) and not when there are far more equitable, fairer and more progressive approaches to addressing our cities backlog of needs (including use of developer impact fees used by cities and counties throughout the region). By saying NO this time around, it sends a strong message - stop taking it out of the hides of low income and working people and seniors and use what funding you have for our basic needs, real needs, that serve our community not special interests. And look in the future more towards progressive forms of taxation!
Some allege that this fee is not regressive and that somehow low income people will benefit from this package of improvements. Nothing could be further from the truth. Over 60% of low income people depend on their automobile to get around. Over 70% of seniors rely on their automobile. On top of the $40 already imposed by the city and county and on top of the base rate, the average car tab would be $172 and that comes on top of the highest sales tax in the nation, proposed tolling, skyrocketing parking fees, fines, and proposed water rate increases bringing these rates close to the highest in the nation. By any common definition a tab fee that costs the lexus driver the same as a family driving a 30 year old chevy - that is regressive in the extreme.
Some councilmembers say that later they will attempt to mitigate the effects of this on low income people and seniors with offsets to their utility rates. We've been involved in city politics for over 30 years and never seen a case where later - after legislation is approved - they come back later and fix it for poor people. It just DOESN'T HAPPEN, EVER and there is nothing in the measure that was passed but lip service to this idea. Those who think otherwise are naive in the extreme.
Further, unless you change state law to explicitly relieve the poor of this added burden directly by a reduction in their tabs at the counter, city hall can't mitigate its effects on low income people or seniors anyway. Under the existing utility rebate system and voucher systems elsewhere, at least 40% of low income people don't ever take advantage of these rebate systems. They move too much or for other reasons simply are not able to access them. Further, nearly all low income households and seniors in subsidized housing don't pay utilities directly including about 8000-10,000 low income households in SHA housing. These rates and enveloped and covered in their rent. And that's true with many private landlords as well. Great if we have more and more effective rebates, but this can never off-set a car tab hike that hits every senior and low income person (the great majority of whom rely on their cars).
And to say that low income people will benefit from how Prop 1 allocates the funds. Baloney! This $60 car tab increase isn't like the smaller two year $40 increases recently imposed by the county and city (for bus and street repairs). Less than 30% goes for street repairs and there's NO MONEY in it for bridge repairs (despite 58% of our bridges in poor or obsolete condition - a backlog of bridge and road needs exceeding $1.5 Billion!). Remember bikes and buses need safe streets and bridges too. Meanwhile, there's about $38 million in Prop 1 that might just as well be called the South Lake Union Improvement Fund (including 18 million to extend the SLU streetcar, millions more for Mercer St and other SLU projects which have been prioritized for Prop 1 funds in the categorically euphemistically described as the "mass transit" category).
And contrary to what the other side would have you believe there's '0' in this for more bus routes or bus service hours. And there are provisions in it allowing the city to reprogram literally all of the money (meaning even more for SLU & other special interests as happened with Bridging the Gap) after the vote. Please explain rationally to us how low income people benefit from such a gross misallocation of these funds that aren't used for our broken down bridges and potholed streets and don't provide more bus routes and services hours and only few sidewalks a year (only nine blocks per year for a backlog of over a 400 mil in needed sidewalks)
We say STOP! Now is not the time to substantially raise car tab taxes when King County unemployment is near 9%, the City has lost 40,656 jobs over the past decade, more people are living on fixed incomes and businesses are leaving Seattle?
Put simply, this is an extremely regressive tax and an enormous burden for low income, working people, small businesses, freight haulers, and people on fixed incomes who are struggling in a tough economy. And you pay $60 no matter what you license, a 40-foot semi, delivery truck, van, motorcycle, $500 Chevy, or a $50,000 luxury car. It’s too much! By saying NO this time around, it sends a strong message - stop taking it out of the hides of low income and working people and use what funding you have for our basic needs, real needs, that serve our community not special interests. And look to in the future more progressive forms of taxation!