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New Legislation Affecting Transportation Benefit Districts


August 6, 2015 by Bob Meinig
Category: Finance

New Legislation Affecting Transportation Benefit Districts

The 2015 Legislature included within its large transportation funding bill, 2ESSB 5987, a number of changes to the laws governing transportation benefit districts (TBDs). To me, the most interesting of these changes is a provision that basically allows a city or county that has a TBD with the same boundaries as the city or county to absorb the TBD and assume all the TBD’s “rights, powers, functions, and obligations,” with the result that the TBD would cease to exist as a separate entity. But more significantly, this legislation increased the permissible amount of the nonvoted vehicle license fee that certain TBDs may impose – up to a maximum of $50. This legislation was effective on July 15.

Section 301 of 2ESSB 5987 authorizes this assumption of control over a TBD by a city or county with the same boundaries as the TBD. The process to accomplish this is set out in Sections 302-303, and it begins with the city or county legislative authority passing a resolution or ordinance indicating its intention to hold a public hearing on the proposed assumption of the rights, powers, functions, and obligations of the TBD, and setting the time and place of the hearing. The ordinance or resolution must be published according to the requirements in Section 302, and, at the hearing, the legislative authority must hear all protests and objections to the proposed assumption. If, after the hearing, the legislative authority determines that “public interest or welfare would be satisfied” by the assumption of the TBD, it passes an ordinance or resolution assuming the rights, powers, functions, and obligations of the TBD. The passage of the ordinance abolishes the TBD governing body and vests the city or county legislative authority with all the rights, powers, functions, and obligations that the TBD governing body possessed. See Section 303.

Sections 304-307 make it clear that the city or county steps completely into the shoes of the TBD when it assumes the rights, powers, functions, and obligations of the TBD. Of course, a city or county that has not already established a TBD will have to first establish one before it can assume the its rights, powers, functions, and obligations.

As to the increase in the nonvoted vehicle license fee, this legislation at Section 309 amends RCW 36.73.065 to increase the amount of that fee that a TBD governing board – or a city or county legislative authority that has assumed a TBD – may impose without a public vote. (To be authorized to enact a nonvoted vehicle license fee, the TBD must include all the territory of the jurisdiction or jurisdictions that established it. See RCW 36.73.065(4) and RCW 82.80.140(2).) If a $20 nonvoted fee has been imposed for at least 24 months, that fee may be increased without a public vote to $40. If, subsequently, a $40 nonvoted fee has been imposed for at least 24 months, that fee may be increased without a public vote up to $50; however, that nonvoted fee of more than $40 is subject to referendum if a petition is filed containing the signatures of at least eight percent of the number of voters registered and voting in the district for the office of the governor at the last preceding gubernatorial election. The petition must be filed within 90 days of the publication of the notice of the intention to increase the fee to more than $40, which notice is to be filed by April 1st of the year in which the vehicle fee is to be imposed. The question whether the fee may be imposed is decided by majority vote.

Finally, in a change that will affect only TBDs that include a city with a population of 500,000 or more (i.e., the City of Seattle), the threshold below which such a TBD may provide rebates of vehicle fees, sales taxes, and tolls is increased from 45 percent to 75 percent of the median household income. (Rebate programs, as defined in RCW 36.73.015(4), are not authorized for other TBDs.)

For more information on TBDs, see our Transportation Benefit Districts webpage.

About Bob Meinig

Bob has written extensively on the state Open Public Meetings Act and on municipal incorporation and annexation. At MRSC, he has also advised local governments for over 25 years on diverse legal issues.

VIEW ALL POSTS BY Bob Meinig

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