OLYMPIA – As many Inland Northwest residents prepare to employ studded snow tires during winter storms forecast this week, the Legislature is being asked to tax them.
A proposal by four Puget Sound-area senators, all Democrats, would place a $5 fee on each new studded snow tire sold in the state to help pay for the damage they do to Washington’s streets and highways.
Senate Bill 6032 was filed last month and referred to the Senate Transportation Committee last week, where it is still awaiting its first hearing. The committee chairwoman, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen of Camano Island, is one of the bill’s co-sponsors.
A fiscal report on the proposal says studded snow tires cause an estimated $24.7 million in damage to the state’s roads every year. The fee, which would be collected when a new studded snow tire is sold, would raise about $475,000 per year. The money would be placed in a motor vehicle account set aside for road maintenance.
Studded tires, and the damage they do to pavement, have been the target of legislation for years, including a pair of bills in the 2009-’10 session. One would have required anyone driving with studded tires to buy a $100 permit each year; the other would have banned them outright in Washington. Neither proposal made it to the Senate floor.
On another front in the tire traction wars, the Senate is considering a proposal to allow alternative traction devices, including those made of fabric, to be approved for use after testing and standards are established by the Washington State Patrol. Representatives of a company that makes one such device, known as the AutoSock, say they are easier to install and are approved in Colorado and several European countries.