Seattle, King County to file joint lawsuit to block $30 car tab initiative

SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan on Thursday said Seattle will fight back against Initiative 976, going to court to preserve the right of city voters to tax themselves.

The city and King County will file a joint lawsuit next week.

"I-976 is not only unfair, it is not only unwise. It is unconstitutional," Durkan said at a news conference.

The initiative, passed by voters in most of the state outside King County, lowers car tabs to $30.

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Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said there are obvious flaws in the initiative.

>> $30 car tabs pass in Washington state

Durkan says if fully implemented, I-976 would force the city to cut more than 100,000 bus hours and funding would be lost for ORCA Opportunity, Durkan's program to provide free bus access for 15,000 Seattle high school students and 1,500 low-income residents.

Funding will be cut for pothole repair, safety measures such as traffic circles, and impact repaving, crosswalks and street cleaning budgets, according to the mayor's office.

>>Taxpayers' lawsuit against Sound Transit car tab hike in court

Seattle's Transportation Benefit District brings in $32 million a year from additional car tab fees approved by city voters.

Eight million dollars is for basic services and the remaining $24 million is for transit, including reduced fares for low income residents and free ORCA cards for high school students.

"Those ORCA passes are lifelines for them," Durkan said.

City Attorney Pete Holmes declined to detail the legal case until it is filed next week.

But Holmes says city and King County lawyers are working together developing three or four strategies, including an argument that sponsor Tim Eyman's initiative violates the state law against measures covering more than one subject.

"Had Mr. Eyman developed an initiative that was constitutional, I wouldn't be here today," Holmes said.

Asked if he considers his initiative legally bulletproof, Eyman said, "We're dealing with probably the most political (state) supreme court we've ever had, so therefore, all you can do is do your best."

Eyman said he made changes to parts of his previous car tab initiatives that were struck down in court.

The city and county want a hearing before a judge as quickly as possible because I-976 is set to take effect December 5.

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