Originally published Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Vote no on Seattle Proposition 1, the $60 car tab tax

The Seattle Times editorial board opposes Seattle Proposition 1, to add $60 more to car tabs. That would be on top of the $20 a Seattle City Council vote already added and the $20 added by a King County Council vote.

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SEATTLE voters should reject Proposition 1, the city's ill-defined and starkly regressive tax increase of $60 a year for every car a person owns. Already this year the city and county each have added $20 to the cost of car tabs. Proposition 1 pushes it up to an even $100 per car per year — and $100 is too much.

A flat fee directly hits people of low income. It is difficult to imagine our progressive city government picking on the poor so directly. Somehow, the poor who own cars are deemed fair game.

Most low-income people do own cars, and need them to get to work, to shopping and to schools.

Compare this tax with the other city tax measure on the ballot, the Families & Education property-tax levy. That levy is doubled, a painful rate of increase for people in a weak economy. But at least the tax is a percentage of value, so the owner of a cheap property would pay less Families & Education tax than the owner of a prime property.

Under Proposition 1, however, the owner of a rusted-out 30-year-old Volkswagen pays the same $60 more in tax as the owner of a new Mercedes-Benz.

The backers of Proposition 1 do not want to talk about the fairness of this tax. They talk about the things the tax will buy.

Most of them are good things, from bus signals to bike lanes. But few are necessary things.

Proposition 1 includes $18 million earmarked for the expansion of streetcar lines, a type of transit that costs far more per user or per mile than bus service. The argument for streetcars is essentially that they are cool, and that some people will ride a streetcar who won't ride a bus. But if there are many such people, why should they be the focus of public subsidy — and why now?

These are hard times. Tax measures should be for necessities. And they should be levied against people in a position to pay. Proposition 1 fails on both counts.


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