Your ride sans rental car taxes is about to dry up.

House Bill 2880, the car-share tax exemption , which supposedly had a lot of


Start Savin' Up, Flexcar Faithful


Your ride sans rental car taxes is about to dry up.

House Bill 2880, the car-share tax exemption, which supposedly had a lot of bi-partisan support (and the muscle of the Seattle City Council!), is all but dead after failing to gain House approval before this week's deadline. Though technically, because the bill involved money matters, it could still be resurrected up until the last day of the session, March 13, the odds are long and the time is short.

Everyone seems to agree on one thing: Flexcar (soon to be Zipcar) users aren't renting cars in the traditional sense and shouldn't have to pay rental car taxes, most of which are collected from tourists to pay off things like stadium bonds. Car-share companies haven't had to pay these taxes in the past, but the State Department of Revenue got greedy last year and changed the rule, hence the bill in question.

Problem is, if there's an exemption, everybody wants to be a part of it, even the rental car companies. The fear of a creating a loophole that would cost the state money ultimately killed the bill. "The concern is that no matter how smart we are, the accountants for the rental car companies are smarter," says bill cosponsor Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle).

Though Flexcar only operates in Seattle, support for the bill spanned to all corners of the state with sponsors hailing from Vancouver, Spokane, Poulsbo and Bellingham. Seattle city council member Jan Drago, who did her own share of lobbying for the exemption, says she's disappointed by its demise: "I feel it sends the wrong message to people who are doing the right thing, giving up a car for the economy of using Flexcar."

Pedersen says his office got more emails on the Flexcar proposal than on anything else this session, except domestic partnerships, "and they weren't just form emails," he says. "People were actually taking the time to tell their stories [about car sharing.]"

With the exemption off the table, Pedersen and other members hope to at least keep money in the budget to help offset the future cost of the tax on Flexcar users-- estimated to be an increase of about a dollar per hour. Gov. Chris Gregoire put a $225,000 grant in her proposed supplemental budget to be distributed through the Commuter Trip Reduction Board to car-sharing companies. However, even keeping the grant money alive isn't going to be easy. The funds weren't part of this week's House version of the budget, likely due to the dismal revenue forecast.

Flexcar, for its part, is working to keep every option on the table, including maybe another run at the tax exemption next year, says spokesman John Williams. While the grant money is better than nothing, Williams says Flexcar has concerns about the intricacies of administering it to its members as well as the uncertainty it introduces: "We'd like not to introduce the question of will there be grant money next year?"

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