SEATTLE — The Washington State Attorney General’s Office is asking the state Supreme Court to allow voter-approved car-tab tax cuts to take effect this week, despite a lower-court ruling putting the cuts on hold.
The Seattle Times reports the state filed an emergency motion Monday saying Washington voters’ wishes are being “stymied” by a King County Superior Court judge’s decision to stop Initiative 976 from taking effect while a legal fight over the initiative’s constitutionality plays out.
Voters last month approved I-976, the statewide measure that calls for lowering many vehicle registration fees to $30, rolling back car-tab taxes that fund Sound Transit and doing away with local car-tab fees. Much of the measure was set to take effect Dec. 5.
Seattle, King County and a handful of other groups sued, saying the measure is unconstitutional.
King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson sided with the groups last week,, temporarily blocking I-976 from taking effect but not yet ruling on the initiative itself.
In Monday’s filing, the Attorney General’s Office calls the lower court’s injunction “legally flawed” and says I-976 will “result in substantial savings to Washington vehicle owners.” Local governments like Seattle can use reserves or other taxes to make up for the losses they’ll suffer from car-tab cuts in the immediate term, the office argues.
At issue in the case has been the ballot title voters saw for I-976, written by the Attorney General’s Office. That language said I-976 would repeal, reduce or remove authority for certain vehicle taxes and limit annual car-tab fees to $30 “except voter-approved charges.” The initiative itself said only charges approved by voters after the measure took effect were exempted. The measure also would repeal cities’ authority to charge car-tab taxes regardless of whether they are voter-approved.
Seattle and others argue the title was misleading. The state counters that ballot titles can be general as long as they include enough information to prompt voters to look to the text of the initiative itself for details.