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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Vehicle tax won’t be used to balance budget

A $20 tax on vehicles owned by drivers living in the city of Spokane won't be approved this year.

The Spokane City Council voted unanimously on Monday to postpone a vote on the tax until Jan. 10. The decision ensures that if the tax is approved, revenue won't be used to balance other parts of the city's budget.

Under state law, tab taxes must be spent on streets. However, the council had contemplated creating the tax and then diverting other street money to pay for non-street shortfalls.

Council members will consider a plan next month that would spend the tax to fund street construction projects that would be completed by private companies -- similar to how the city's voter-approved street property tax is spent.

Councilman Jon Snyder said the idea is to improve city streets without rewarding street department employees who didn't agree to concessions demanded by Mayor Mary Verner. The council also is considering a plan to create a citizens' advisory committee to help oversee projects paid for by the tax.

Councilman Steve Corker said he opposes the creation of the tab tax to use on street construction. Since the city's largest union, which includes street department workers, opted against concessions, Corker said the city shouldn't create new taxes.

Last week, Corker sponsored a proposal to shift $1.5 million from the street department to help balance the budgets of the fire and police departments. The move creates a nearly $800,000 shortfall that could lead to further layoffs. The council is scheduled to vote on the final 2011 budget next week.

Jonathan Brunt
Jonathan Brunt joined The Spokesman-Review in 2004. He is the government editor. He previously was a reporter who covered Spokane City Hall, Spokane County government and public safety.

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