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By next year, Washington state RVers might be paying a much higher excise tax on their RVs instead of a $5 parking fee at state parks.
Key lawmakers recently proposed an annual tax on motorhomes, travel trailers and campers to raise money for state parks and neglected facilities. If approved, the measure would essentially replace the $5 parking fees now on the books.
“We’ve got a moving target that’s changing, but changing for the better,” said Sen. Bob Oke (R-Port Orchard), chairman of the state legislature’s Senate Parks, Fish and Wildlife Committee.
Under Substitute Senate Bill 5775, RV owners would pay a 0.8% excise tax on the fair market value of their vehicles. The owner of a motorhome valued at $40,000, for example, would pay $320 per year under the plan.
The tax would raise an estimated $27 million per year, which would be split between the state’s parks, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Department of Natural Resources.
But RV owners are howling, even as lawmakers and state agencies applaud the plan.
“We feel this would be punitive,” said Bob Gummersall, with the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA). “This is directed at a small population. That’s why so many of us supported $30 (car) tabs.”
Yet, several lobbyists who represent outdoors groups said they don’t mind the excise tax idea. “RV owners are using the parks. It is not an unfair tax,” said Jim King, with Citizens for Parks and Recreation. “Watercraft owners pay a tax. Snowmobile owners pay a tax. If we start divvying this up too much, we will not meet the needs of state agencies.”
Officials from the state Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife endorsed the legislation.
So did the Washington Council of Trout Unlimited and the Audubon Society.
Rosy talk from those supporting the new tax plan didn’t please RV owners.
Roy Bernd, who represents Airstream owners statewide, said RV owners who use parks infrequently would be unfairly burdened. “We’d be happy to pay (for parks) when we use them,” he said.
Oke told those questioning the measure that RV owners “are not paying property taxes (on their vehicles) and are not paying taxes for schools.”
RV owners no longer pay an excise tax either, because lawmakers repealed it. “Somebody’s gonna get taxed,” Oke said.
The seven-member State Parks and Recreation Commission recently implemented a day-use fee of $5 per day or $50 for an annual pass.
SB 5775 doesn’t prohibit the parks commission from collecting the $5-per-day parking fees. But if the commission continued to collect parking fees, the state would reduce the amount it gives the commission from the general fund.
The legislation would take effect Jan. 1, 2004, if approved.