Just as the state of Washington was starting to get a handle on scrap tire cleanup, its funding mechanism was dismantled, leaving dealers and others wondering when-if ever-the state will rid itself of the estimated 10 million unwanted tires dotting the landscape. The Washington legislature, which nine years ago placed a $1 tax on each new tire to fund cleanup operations, adjourned recently without renewing the tax or enacting additional regulations intended to strengthen the state's existing scrap tire program.
Legislation to renew the tax was not put to a vote on the House floor, due in part to a recently enacted state initiative requiring voter approval of all tax levies. Political leaders said they didn't want to overcrowd the ballot box next fall with tax proposals needing voter approval.
The state still has about $6.5 million in tire cleanup funds remaining-but not enough to finish its abatement job. The legislature is scheduled to reconvene in January, when it could take up the issue again.
Washington tire dealers had supported the uninterrupted continuation of the tax. Many dealers remembered that when the tax first debuted nearly a decade ago, much of their valuable time was spent explaining to uninformed customers why an additional dollar per tire was being added to the bill.
And should the tire tax be reinstated after any significant period of time, dealers know they'll be forced to undertake that educational process all over again.
Ironically, all this occurred as New Mexico-one of the last states to attack its scrap tire problem-was enacting a scrap tire management program, to be funded by an additional vehicle registration fee.
Washington must reinstate the tax without further delay and enact whatever legislation is needed to curb the formation of additional illegal scrap tire piles.
Hopefully, Washington's inaction will not serve as a precedent for other states. Legislators' timidity must not be allowed to thwart the nation's undeniable progress toward solving its scrap tire problem.