South Sound city moves toward $30 car tabs despite litigation

ORTING, Wash. -- One South Sound city says it won't wait for judges to decide on car tabs.

Orting officials plan to start moving toward a flat $30 fee for car tabs, as voted on in the November election.

I-976, sponsored by initiative champion Tim Eyman, is slated to slash car tabs to $30 statewide, leaving state and local governments scrambling. The measure passed by a wide margin but has been held up in court. An injunction put in place at the end of 2019 means governments can still collect that revenue.

Orting's Mayor Joshua Penner says he and the city council agreed not to wait until the initiative makes it way through the courts. He plans to cut city resident's tabs right away, saving Orting's 8,300 residents about $20 per registration.

Penner says he asked the city council to cut tab costs largely to avoid confusion. He doesn't want the city to end up in a pickle if I-976 is upheld, he said.

"Everybody is operating in a gray area," Penner said. "The best way to eliminate the ambiguity was to let the citizens keep their money rather than take it and worry about a refund if the initiative was upheld."

The city stands to lose a little more than $100,000 in revenue. Some repaving projects will go on hold, Penner said. But for the most part, the city is in good shape to "give voters what they want."

"The citizens of Orting are being represented," Penner said.

The cuts do not apply to Sound Transit taxes, a voter-approved expansion project that left many used car owners with sticker shock over vehicle valuation. Pierce County rejected ST3 but it still passed in the taxing district, which stretches from Everett down past Tacoma.