Richland Drivers: Are you ok with a $20 license surcharge beginning next year? City leaders swear they need the money to help finance construction for a new Duportail Bridge and other preventative projects.

You may not have a choice.

Richland is establishing a "Transportation Benefit District" that can, without the vote of the public, levy a car tab tax of up to $20. Once that's been on the books for two years, it can be raised to $40. Once a $40 fee has been in place for two years, it can be bumped to $50. Again, we can't do anything about it. The new transportation benefit district and car tab fee can be approved by the city council and does not require voter approval.

It takes a vote of the people to raise the sales tax, but the rules are way different for raising vehicle licensing fees. Richland Mayor Bob Thompson expects to introduce a motion to create the district and fund it with the license fee at the council's February 21st meeting. A public hearing is planned as well (won't matter) and Richland officials say their proposed license fee would automatically end in 20 years (fat chance) when bonds to pay for the Duportail Bridge expire.

The project's goal is to relieve congestion and to reduce traffic on the I-182 bridge by extending Duportail Street across the Yakima River from Queensgate to Downtown Richland.

These districts are not new. Currently, there are about 90 cities and counties that have created them and nearly 60 have levied new vehicle taxes. Prosser established a district in 2009. A bump to raise the tax to $30 was rejected by their district in 2013. Prosser is expected to raise about $90,000 this year. If approved in Richland, the new fee would apply to about 40,000 vehicles registered in the city of Richland and would raise about $850,000 per year.

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