Some Washington drivers could see a new fee added to their vehicle-tab transactions starting next year.
Both the Senate and House agreed on a bill that would add a $5 fee for vehicle-registration renewals and purchases and a $12 fee for title transactions through public offices. Unless the governor vetoes the bill, a rare occurrence, it will become law.
The money generated by the new fees would pay for a third 144-car ferry.
Currently, private businesses that offer these services already charge an administrative fee, both online and over the counter. The bill would require public offices, such as county courthouses and the state department of licensing (DOL), to add the fee to each transaction as well, including online.
Currently there are no additional convenience fees if someone renews their tabs by mail or online through the DOL.
According to DOL data, 63 percent of Washington drivers already go to private businesses for these services, so the new fees would apply to about 37 percent of drivers.
These figures include people who process their vehicle registration and title transactions online. About 14 percent of transactions processed through a private business are done online; the DOL is at 34 percent for online transactions.
After the House passed House Bill 1129 in February, the Senate added an amendment and passed it on March 7.
The amendment would allow excess money in the account that pays for new ferries to be transferred to the ferry operations account, which pays for regular maintenance and operations of Washington State Ferries.
The House agreed with the amendment and approved it on March 10.
The third 144-car ferry is expected to cost $123 million, about $9 million less than the average cost of the first and second ferries of the same class. The new fees outlined in this bill are expected to generate about $11 million in its first year and then an average of about $22.8 million per year after that.
Depending on the duration of the bond that Washington State Ferries finances for the third ferry, the new fee could be implemented in its current form for the next several years.
Because of the amendment added by the Senate, after the ferry is paid off, the fee is expected to remain in place and the money would be used for regular maintenance and operations of ferries.