Lawmakers in the State of Washington are trying to break a 16 year-old promise to allow a tax on rental cars to expire once the bonds used to build new stadiums were paid off – this will happen later this year. Offered as an amendment to the state budget, HB 1997 would permanently extend taxes on renal cars. 

After failing to be approved by voters at the ballot box in 1995, the state legislature passed an unpopular tax on rental cars on the requisite that the taxes would sunset as soon as the bonds sold for the construction of Safeco Field were paid off. But, if HB 1997 is included in the budget, it will be a blatant breach of promise and represent a complete dismissal of the desires of the Evergreen State’s citizenry. In a letter sent to the Washington Senate, Americans for Tax Reform President, Grover G. Norquist, said:

"HB 1997 is a tax borne by local residents and employers. As such, it is not surprising an Elway poll released just a few weeks ago shows that 57% of Seattle residents want the taxes to expire while only 37% want to see them extended." 

In his letter, Norquist quotes an editorial from the Seattle Times in opposition to the proposed extension.

“The legislation breaks a vow with people paying the taxes who were told in plain English that the taxes would go away when the stadium was paid for. This is no time to be assigning that money to the next pending desire…Pass the smelling salts. Lawmakers need to snap to their senses and allow the taxes to expire, as promised.”

While many of the amendment’s proponents believe it is simply a tax levied on out-of-towners the data shows otherwise. A recent study by the Global Business Travel Association reveals a harsh truth – 62 percent of the tax collected as a result of this measure was on local customers.

The proposed tax would also negatively impact the tourism industry in Washington.  As a state known for its natural beauty and tourist appeal, Washington is reliant on remaining an affordable tourist destination – something hard to do when the average rental in Seattle is tagged with $14.81 a day in taxes.

As a result of Washington taxpayers being promised in 1995 that the tax hikes would expire when the bonds had been paid for, the negative economic impact it would have, and the overwhelming public opposition to HB 1997, Americans for Tax Reform stands in firm opposition to the measure and would score any vote for it as a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

To urge your representative to oppose HB 1997 and any other ‘revenue-enhancing’ measure please click here.

A PDF of Norquist’s letter is available here.