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"To pay for tabs, or not pay for tabs"

"Whether motorists choose to park their cars or drive them during the next two months, if they can wait until after Jan. 1 to renew their automobile license tabs, there is money to be saved.Last week’s electoral passage of Initiative 695 — the $30 license tab measure — has not only city, county, and state governments making decisions about their budgets, but automobile owners as well. This week, the state Department of Licensing reported that it will not penalize drivers who wait until the law takes effect Jan. 1 to renew their license tabs. Potentially thousands of Island County drivers whose car tabs come due in November and December have a choice to make. They can park their cars and wait until after Jan. 1, continue to drive on expired tabs and risk getting a ticket, or pay the full tabs bill under the current tabs law. There are no refunds for drivers who pay full price for their tabs now, which means they could be out hundreds of dollars each compared to those renewing in the new year.At Island Insurance’s vehicle licensing center in Freeland, Pat Waite said she expects November and December renewals to drop off to nearly nil as South Whidbey drivers choose to park their cars or take a chance in traffic on expired tabs. On a typical day, Waite and her colleague, Kim Chapman, do about 30 tab renewals. While it does no matter to them one way or another if all those drivers chose to wait until 2000, paying the extra money now could make a difference.“If they get them now, they won’t get ticketed,” Waite said.However, chances are that drivers with expired tabs will stay out of ticket trouble, especially those with December tabs. Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley said Monday that deputies on patrol generally do not scrutinize license tabs to the exception of looking for other, more serious violations. Typically, the only time a driver would receive one of the $71 (minimum) tickets is if he or she were stopped for another traffic offense.It’s very hard to spot an expired tab when you’re driving by,” Hawley said.Hawley also said traffic patrol deputies will give out warnings in most cases and will ask drivers to immediately renew their tabs. None compliance will lead to a ticket.State Patrol troopers will be scrutinizing licence tabs as carefully as they can as they patrol Highway 525. Patrol Sargeant Rick Grimstad said Tuesday that while his agency will not engage in a special license tab emphasis, troopers are watching.“We look for them on a daily basis,” Grimstad said.The safest way to go if drivers feel as though they must wait until after Jan. 1 to get cheap tabs, Grimstad said, is to park the car with invalid tabs until I-695 takes effect.Drivers with license tabs more than two months out of day will have to pay a $157 ticket if they are caught by law enforcement.Still, for some, absorbing the ticket may be worth it. Tab fees from some expensive vehicles can run over $800. It still costs between $200 and $250 to buy tabs for even a modest car that is a few years old.Pat Waite said South Whidbey drivers waiting until the first business day of the new year to renew their tabs should be prepared for an extremely long line at the vehicle licensing counter. Waite said drivers should also take a look at the license plates on their cars, because after Jan. 1, those older than seven years must be replaced.How to use I-695Freshly written up by the state’s Department of Licensing, here are some questions and answers to keep in mind about the $30 license tab initiative:Will all people pay $30 for their licence tabs?No one will pay just $30. Various fees specifically imposed on vehicles by the Legislature have not been repealed by I-695 and will continue to be collected. For example:• $3 filing fee for renewals.• $30 fee assessed on personalized, collegiate, and stadium plates.What is the effective date of I-695?The initiative will take effect with any vehicle registration fees paid Jan. 1, 2000, or thereafter, regardless of the the vehicle’s expiration date.Can you renew in January if your tabs were due in November or December 1999?Yes, although your vehicle would be unlicensed during the intervening period. The expiration month would remain the same.Could you use a trip permit in the intervening period?Yes. Trip permits are good for three consecutive days. Only three permits may be used in a single month.How does I-695 apply to trucks, including small pickups?Those vehicles currently charged gross weight will pay, at a minimum, the filing fee and gross weight fee, but not the $30 license tab fee.Are there refunds for drivers who pay their January tabs early, or who pay the full price for tabs in November or December?No."

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