SEATTLE — The state Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that a voter-approved $30 car tab measure will remain on hold while a legal fight over the initiative’s constitutionality plays out.
The Washington State Attorney General’s Office filed an emergency motion Monday saying Washington voters’ wishes were being “stymied” by a King County Superior Court judge’s decision to stop Initiative 976 from taking effect.
On Tuesday, initiative sponsor Tim Eyman and his allies filed their own request to vacate the lower court’s injunction and move the case to the state Supreme Court. That was dismissed by the Supreme Court Wednesday.
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, the Garfield County Transportation Authority 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.
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.
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a statement that “the court’s order rightly maintains the status quo while we have the opportunity to fully present our arguments that this harmful, misleading measure should not take effect,” the Seattle Times reported.
Eyman in an email to supporters railed against Attorney General Bob Ferguson, saying Ferguson sabotaged the measure by failing to defend it effectively and by not filing additional motions.
Eyman also faces a long-running campaign finance lawsuit from Ferguson’s office.