Tax and fee hikes weigh down state transportation spending proposal

Apr 15, 2021
Written by wpengine

State legislators are entertaining armfuls of tax and fee increases before they adjourn the 2021 Session later this month. There are so many new potential bills that minority Republicans have coined a social media “Taxapalooza” hashtag to update followers on a massive, 16-year transportation bill overseen by Senator Steve Hobbs, a Democrat who chairs the Senate’s Transportation Committee.

None of this should escape the attention of retailers or their customers. If approved, it would boost the cost of doing business for retailers and the cost of living for most of their customers for years to come. Hobbs is quoted as saying it’s only fair to spread the 33 proposed tax and fee increases in the proposal to as many Washingtonians as possible.

The entire list of potential new costs is here.

The state gasoline tax, among the nation’s highest that was hiked 11.9 cents over two years in 2015, would climb up to 9.8 cents more under the proposal. All retailers may pay higher delivery costs for manufacturer shipments and to ship items to customers. Needless to say, perhaps, is that the cost of driving to and from the stores to shop also could go up and eat into purchasing power and the economy.

Here’s just a sampling of all the other ways lawmakers are weighing to pay for other transportation improvements:

  • A new $150 tax per $100,000 value of new residential construction. It could be $300 per $100,000 value of commercial construction.
  • As of January 1, 2022, a 50-cent fee per trip on food deliveries, taxis and ride-sharing services.
  • A 1% sales tax increase for buying auto parts
  • Boosting standard driver’s license fees (six-year card) from $54 to $60.
  • A 1% boost in the 5.9% car-rental tax.
  • A doubling of the fee to change your driver’s license photo from $10 to $20.
  • A $15 commercial drone registration fee.
  • Increasing the 50-cent car tab surcharge to fund new ferries to 75 cents.

A quarter or dollar more here and there across the state adds up to billions of dollars for transportation projects, many of which will eventually be necessary. Washington can’t afford to maintain a crumbling transportation system.

However, taxpayers have been through a punishing financial year during the lingering coronavirus pandemic. Record numbers lost their jobs and some businesses are struggling to get back on their feet. The lengthy list of new expenses outlined here could be on top of a controversial and legally questionable capital gains tax the Legislature is poised to approve on the sale of personal assets including family businesses.

Before signing off this Session, lawmakers should weigh the costs of their ideas on the bent backs of many employers and taxpayers across our state. It is really the right time to ask for more?