Senate committee: Sound Transit misled voters on costs of ST3

by: KIRO 7 News Staff Updated:

A Washington state Senate committee has concluded that Sound Transit misled voters before they turned to a ballot to decide whether to expand public transportation. 

Voters passed Sound Transit 3, a $54 billion measure, last year for 62 new miles of light rail. Weeks later, drivers started seeing car tabs triple. 

Some lawmakers began putting pressure on Sound Transit in the spring about the sticker shock. Senators Steve O'Ban and Dino Ross called for the investigation into whether Sound Transit engaged in a "systematic effort to confuse and misrepresent the impact and cost of the ST3 authorization to legislators and the public."

The Seattle Times obtained an executive summary from an investigation conducted by the Republican-led Senate Law and Justice Committee.  

According to the executive summary, key findings determined that Sound Transit misled people by a variety of actions including how information was provided to voters in its online tax calculator and mailing guide. 

“Sound Transit misled voters regarding use of the tax calculator it supplied online,” one of the key findings read. “Because it depended on the previous year’s Regional Transit Authority tax and made reference to ‘Motor vehicle value,’ voters were easily misled of confused as to how much they might pay.” 

The committee believes that Sound Transit also misled voters in its mail guide by not explain that car-tab taxes were based on an older system of estimating a car’s value. This older system can inflate the value of newer cars, according to the committee. 

The senate committee -- with senators Curtis King, Judy Clibborn, Mark Miloscia as chairs -- passed along the findings to other lawmakers for review. 

Sound Transit told KIRO 7 News last year that the claims of deception have no validity.


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