Spokane City Council members on Monday decided to give themselves new taxing authority.
The council voted 5-2 to create a “Transportation Benefit District.” The decision means the council will have the ability to enact a vehicle tab tax up to $20. Higher tab taxes would require public votes.
The decision did not enact any tax. Council members said they likely will hold a hearing on a proposed fee as early as November.
While the money raised would have to be spent on street and transportation projects, the law allows the city to divert other revenue currently spent on streets.
Council members Bob Apple and Nancy McLaughlin voted against the proposal. Council members said they likely will dissolve the district if the county forms a regional district at a later date. Apple said any fee should go on a ballot.
But other council members noted that one of the city's sources for street projects – real estate taxes – have plummeted from $3.5 million in 2006 to $1.6 million last year.
“If our citizens don't want to pay $20 per vehicle for streets, we're in really, really bad shape,” said Council President Joe Shogan.
But McLaughlin noted that the citizens will continue paying higher utility rates, and that the economy remains sluggish.
“Twenty bucks is a lot of money these days,” she said.
The decision still needs a signature from Mayor Mary Verner. Earlier in the day, she said she had mixed feelings on the proposal. The 5-2 vote indicates there's enough support to override a mayoral veto no matter the position Verner ultimately takes.