Safeco Field Auto Rental Tax Bill Voted Down - Update

No amendments were added to the bill before the midnight deadline on Wednesday. Car rental taxes will not be extended.

A proposal to extend some taxes on car rentals, hotels and restaurants that would pay off Safeco Field in Seattle failed in the state Senate on May 19.

Senate Bill 5958 failed by a single vote. 

Supporters argued the taxes, on car rentals, hotels, and restaurants would create thousands of new jobs by funding a convention center expansion and other amenities. The car rental and restaurant taxes would end in 2015.

But critics argued lawmakers should not erode public trust by extending the life of what was voted in as a temporary tax scheduled to expire once Safeco Field bonds are paid off. The bonds will be paid off this year ahead of schedule due to better than projected revenue.

Shane Skinner, controller for Enterprise Holdings in Washington and Alaska, worked to oppose the bill. "We have really focused on the promise that was made back in 1995 that these taxes would expire, as promised to our customers and the people of Washington," Skinner told Auto Rental News.

Doris Cassan of CMC Investments Inc., a Seattle-based Dollar Rent A Car licensee, was also instrumental in contacting legislators to oppose the bill.

According to a recent Elway Poll of 405 Seattle voters, 57 percent said they were in favor of repealing the taxes rather than extend them for other purposes, while 37 percent agreed to keep the taxes.

However, this tax fight is not over. Senate Bill 5961 was introduced on Saturday, May 21 that would extend the tax by putting the measure up for public vote. The car rental and restaurant taxes extension was subsequently removed, and the latest version of the bill passed the state Senate on Tuesday. The special session does not end until midnight on Wednesday, leaving the possibility of reattaching the taxes as an amendment in the House.

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