What seemed like a no-brainer-- keep car share company Flexcar exempt from rental car taxes-- has gone on life support in Olympia. If supporters don't

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Flexcar Tax Exemption all but Dead

What seemed like a no-brainer-- keep car share company Flexcar exempt from rental car taxes-- has gone on life support in Olympia. If supporters don't figure out a way to move a bill that would override a new rule ginned up by the State Department of Revenue, Flexcar users will soon have to start paying about a dollar more per hour.

The Seattle City Council is not happy. "This is not the right message to be sending," says Sally Clark, adding that the exemption is a "valid public policy thing to do. It supports our growth management standards. It supports people who are trying to do the right thing, living without cars. I'm a little surprised it's been such a tough go."

It's been a tough go because committee chairs in both the House and Senate don't like the idea of giving Flexcar special status. Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island) didn't return calls for comment, but word is she wants the money for the state's transportation coffers. Keep in mind that this is money, projected to grow to more than $400,000 by 2009, that the state's never seen. (Another reason it can do without, says Clark.) But council member Jan Drago, who met with Haugen last week, says the senator's mind is all but made up. "She's put her foot down," Drago says. "It's all about the money."

On the House side, Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Bellevue) says his concern is that the exemption would open up a loophole for traditional car rental companies to get out of paying the tax. "It's hard to come up with rules that don't apply to Flexcar, but apply to everyone else. People could change their business plan," Hunter says.

For her part, Gov. Chris Gregoire, put $225,000 in the proposed supplemental budget to help ease the pain on Flexcar users. The grant money would be distributed through the Commuter Trip Reduction Board to car sharing companies. "This is her preferred solution," says Gregoire spokesman Aaron Toso.

But Flexcar spokesman John Williams says that grant money is problematic for a couple reasons: it could be difficult to administer, and could be cut at any time. "You're fighting against the American Dream of car ownership and the impression of freedom of mobility. We need to make it easy, cost effective and convenient," he says. "Anything that interjects uncertainty can work against you in terms of getting people to consider a different lifestyle."

Williams says Flexcar's got an online petition with 1,850 signatures. The Flexcar faithful should continue to be vocal. The bill has to move in out of either the House or Senate committee by Tuesday, or it dies by default. Says Drago: "The only thing left to do is flood Sen. Haugen and Rep. Hunter with positive messages about Flexcar."

 
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