A city council in Washington can, with a majority vote, impose a vehicle tab fee of up to $20 to form a Transportation Benefit District. Anything above that requires voter approval. Cities can also levy a small sales tax increase.
The latest example of employing this power is the City of Ferndale, Wash. The city council voted 5-1 to create a transportation benefit district which could ask voters to approve a sales tax increase. That decision, and if and when the measure would appear before voters, may come as soon as December 5. A sales tax increase of 2/10 of a percent would generate an estimated $300,000 a year, notes Kie Relyea of the Bellingham Herald.
Ferndale won’t be the last city in Washington state to seek a tax or fee increase for transportation projects. The Association of Washington Cities observed back in late 2010 that “cities are trending toward adopting Transportation Benefit Districts to assist (not wholly fund) their system.”