MOTOR VEHICLE FUND ‑- BASIS FOR ALLOCATION OF FUNDS TO COUNTIES
The allocation of motor vehicle funds to counties under subsection (3) (b) of RCW 46.68.120 (1957 Supp.) must be made on the basis of the place where the registered owner of vehicles is "residing" and not on the basis of the place of predominate use.
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January 22, 1958
Honorable George W. Sibbald
Prosecuting Attorney of Cowlitz County
Cowlitz County Court House
Kelso, Washington Cite as: AGO 57-58 No. 150
Attention: !ttMr. Richard L. Norman
Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney
We acknowledge receipt of your request for an opinion on the following question:
Is it proper to base the allocation of motor vehicle funds to the counties under RCW 46.68.120 (3) (b) (1957 Supp.) on the place where such vehicles are predominately used rather than on the place of residence of the registered owner?
We answer your question in the negative.
RCW 46.68.100 provides for the allocation of 15 per cent of the net amount of the motor vehicle fund to cities and 41 1/2 per cent to the counties. By RCW 46.68.120 (3) (1957 Supp.) the counties' share, after the deduction of 3/4 per cent for supervisory expenses, and that portion allocated to island [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] counties, shall be distributed on a formula determined as follows:
(a) 10 per cent is divided equally among the counties;
(b) 30 per cent is distributed to each county "in direct proportion that the sum of the total number of private automobiles and trucks licensed by registered owners residing in unincorporated areas and 7 per cent of the number of private automobiles and trucks licensed by registered owners residing in incorporated areas within each county bears to the total of such sums for all counties. The number of registered vehicles so used shall be as certified by the director of the department of licenses for the year next preceding the date of calculation of the allocation amounts."
(c) 30 per cent is distributed on the basis of the proportion that each county's trunk mileage at its prorated annual cost per truck mile as set out in the section bears to the sum thereof.
(d) 30 per cent is distributed on the basis of the proportion that each county's trunk mileage and its "money need factor" as defined in the section bears to the total thereof.
We are here concerned only with the means of determining the distribution under subparagraph (b) above as arrived at from a determination of the private automobiles and trucks licensed in each county by their owners "residing" in unincorporated areas. This information, of course, is derived in connection with the vehicle license fees received by the director of licenses (RCW 46.68.030 (1957 Supp.)) under chapter 46.16 RCW. Such vehicle licenses are obtained based on an application (RCW 46.16.040) which must show among other things "(1) Name and address of the owner of the vehicle." The official form used in odd-numbered years contains a box headed "Legal Residence" with a square to check indicating "Incorporated City or Town" or "Unincorporated Area." As provided in RCW 46.68.120 (3) (b) (1957 Supp.), supra, the information is supplied each even-numbered year based on the number of vehicles registered in the preceding (odd-numbered) year.
Your inquiry results from the practice allegedly in use of recording such registrations in unincorporated areas where the use of the vehicle is predominately rural rather than in the place where the registered owner resides. It is a cardinal rule of statutory construction that words to be construed must be given their usual and ordinary meaning. Pacific Northwest Alloys v. State, 49 Wn. (2d) 702. The statute (RCW 46.68.120 (3) (b) (1957 Supp.)) clearly states "registered ownersresiding in unincorporated areas." Where a person is residing does not necessarily have any connection with where he "uses" his vehicle.
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
A more serious question might be posed if the distinction were "residence" or "domicile." But the question here is between "residence" of the registered owner on the one hand, and the area in which he uses it on the other. Nowhere in the statute do we find any authority or justification for using the area where a vehicle is customarily operated as the basis for registering a vehicle. The only statutory provisions are by owner "residing" in RCW 46.68.120 (1957 Supp.) and "address" in RCW 46.16.040.
InMcGrath v. Stevenson, 194 Wash. 160, in interpreting the term "residing" in a statute involving the eligibility of petitioners to sign a petition for the vacation of a county road, the court had this to say:
". . . To interpret the sense in which such a term is used, we should look to the object or purpose of the statute in which the term is employed. A man can have only one place of residence for voting purposes and certain other purposes, but there is no reason why, within the meaning of the vacation statute (Rem. Rev. Stat., § 6503), he may not have more than one place of residence.
"The phrase 'freeholders residing in the vicinity' is not used in a strict sense as necessarily implying a permanent abode in such place, but as used in Rem. Rev. Stat., § 6503, may be satisfied by a temporary residence in the vicinity. The principle of the law and its evident intent are that a road shall not be vacated without the advice and sanction of the requisite number of residents who have a property interest in that vicinity. A man may have a summer home, as the freeholder petitioners in the case at bar had, and also a place of permanent abode. 'Residing,' as used in the vacation statute (Rem. Rev. Stat. § 6503), is not employed in the sense of legal residence of a person with reference to his right of suffrage and eligibility to office. Clearly, the intention of the statute is to insure the execution of a petition by ten people having an actual personal interest in the vacation of the road."
We believe the conclusions reached in that decision as to the interpretation of the term "residing" are particularly applicable here. Paraphrasing that opinion, we conclude that "residing" as used in RCW 46.68.120 (3) (b) (1957 Supp.), means at least a temporary abode. The mere use of a vehicle does not satisfy this requirement. In so far as applicable to your question, we must conclude that the allocation to be made by the director of licenses of the motor vehicle funds to the several counties under RCW 46.68.120 (3) (b) (1957 Supp.) must be made on the basis of the place where the registered owner is "residing" and [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] not on the basis of the place where the vehicle is predominately used where that place is different from the place where the registered owner resides.
It is to be noted that the aggregate amounts to be distributed to the counties will not be changed by the improper allocation of vehicles to a county on the basis of use rather than on the basis of the residence of the registered owner. The amount allocated to the counties is a fixed percentage of the motor vehicle fund (cf. RCW 46.68.100).
Consequently, the effect of improper registration is to vary the percentage between the counties. For example, if under the 1955 allocations a county's share was 10 per cent of this fund, an increase in rural vehicle registration from 20 per cent to 50 per cent in 1957 (as revealed by certain statistics submitted to this office) will effect a proportionate increase in such counties resulting in a corresponding decrease in the allocation to other counties. The end sought to be achieved by the statute is the use of a uniform basis making the allocation to the several counties. By statute this is based on place of residence of the registered owner, not on the place of predominate use. The department of licenses and its registering agents, including county auditors, must make a determination which will enable the director of licenses to certify the number of vehicles in "incorporated" or "unincorporated" areas to conform with their place of residence as shown on the application.
We trust this information will be helpful in establishing the uniform requirements of RCW 46.68.120 (1957 Supp.) for the allocation of funds between the several counties of this state from the motor vehicle fund.
Very truly yours,
JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Assistant Attorney General