Understanding how I-976 will impact the City of Spokane

Understanding how I-976 will impact the City of Spokane
City of Spokane

The City of Spokane has released a report on the impacts of Initiative 976, which will appear on Washington voters’ ballots this November.

According to the City, if passed, I-976 would:

Limit motor vehicle license fees to $30 per year
Repeal the authority of Transportation Benefit Districts to impose vehicle fees
Repeal or reduce weight fees for certain vehicles
Reduce electric vehicle fees to $30 per year, down from $150
Repeal the 0.3 percent tax on vehicle retail sales
Make other changes to transportation-related taxes and fees

The City says that I-976 would also eliminate street and pedestrian funding from the Transportation Benefit District (TBD). Currently, Spokane vehicle owners pay a $20 TBD fee for the improvement funding. The City of Spokane collected around $3 million last year with these TBD fees, and have already collected about $2 million in 2019.

Most of these funds reportedly go to improving residential streets, and the TBD fees comprise over half the City’s annual investment in these improvements. 10 percent of the funding is designated for pedestrian projects, including sidewalks around schools. If I-976 passes, this TBD funding would cease officially on December 5.

Additionally, passing the measure could potentially cut funding for City transportation projects. State and local funds such as the Motor Vehicle Fund, the Transportation Improvement Account and the Multimodal Transportation Improvement Account will be impacted by the reduced fees and taxes under 976, according to the City. Typically, these funds are used to provide grants for projects across the county.

Lastly, the City says that passing I-976 has the possibility of reducing investments from the Washington State Department of Transportation, since accounts funded by motor vehicle taxes would come up short after the measure. The State Office of Financial Management estimates that by 2025, Washington state could potentially lose $1.9 billion in revenue. The City of Spokane reports that they could see a loss closer to $2.3 billion.

You can read City Interim Director of Communications Marlene Feist’s report on I-976 here.

For more information on I-976, including arguments for and against the measure, visit the Washington State Secretary of State’s website here.