SEATTLE — (AP) — A King County Superior Court judge on Wednesday rejected most of a legal challenge to Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976, a measure that would steeply discount the price of car registrations while gutting transportation budgets across the state.
Judge Marshall Ferguson said King County and a coalition of Washington cities had failed to carry the heavy burden of demonstrating that the $30 car tab measure was unconstitutional on most of their claims. Those claims included that the description of the initiative on the ballot was misleading and that the measure violated the Washington Constitution's rule that initiatives be limited to one subject.
However, the judge declined to rule yet on two other issues: whether the initiative unlawfully impairs the contracting authority of the city of Burien, and on whether a requirement that car valuations be based on Kelley Blue Book values illegally favors a private company.
In late November, Ferguson blocked I-976 from taking effect, saying he was concerned that the initiative’s ballot title was misleading because it said the measure would “limit annual motor-vehicle-license fees to $30, except voter-approved charges.”
That suggested that fees approved by local voters for local projects would survive. In reality, only fees approved by voters in the future would be allowed, and the authority of local jurisdictions to seek such measures to begin with would also be curtailed. The challengers argued that that language enticed voters to support it because they were reassured — falsely — that local projects could still be approved.
But upon further arguments and further review, the judge wrote in his order Wednesday, it's possible that the Legislature could approve, or voters could pass, measures creating further avenues for raising vehicle fees. Thus, he said, the ballot language was not “palpably misleading.”
A coalition of cities, King County, and Garfield County’s transit agency brought the lawsuit, saying it would eviscerate funds they need to pay for transit and road maintenance. It would cost the state and local governments more than $4 billion in revenue over the next six years, according to the state Office of Financial Management.
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