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Sound Transit Leaders Defend Car-Tab Formula

Will James

Sound Transit board members on Thursday met for the first time since anger erupted over a spike in car tabs tied to the transportation upgrades. 

Transit officials largely defended their formula for calculating the fees, which residents have criticized for inflating the values of vehicles.

They say changing the formula could cut $6 billion from the $54 billion voter-approved transportation overhaul known as Sound Transit 3.  

Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, who sits on the Sound Transit board, said voters are upset about new taxes and fees tied to the plan, but they're also demanding better transit and less traffic.

"Quite frankly, if we don't do these projects, it'll take you five hours to get here in a few years," she said. "This is why we did this — it's not to try and steal from anybody. It is to ensure that we have an opportunity to move this region forward." 

Sound Transit officials are worried that bills proposed in Olympia to change the car-tab formula would result in project delays and cancelations.

Board members voted to continue negotiating with state lawmakers toward a solution.  

Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, who is also a member of the transit board, said it was important for the agency to restore trust among voters stung by the car-tab hikes. Sound Transit 3 passed in November despite its rejection by Pierce County voters. 

"I think we have a credibility issue here," Dammeier said. "We're entrusted with $54 billion by the taxpayers of our region. And earning their respect and having them believe that we are treating this issue seriously is really important." 

Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.