Monday, September 21, 2020
Sept. 21, 2020

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Supreme Court upholds billions of dollars in transit funding


SEATTLE — The Washington Supreme Court on Thursday upheld vehicle registration tax increases in the Puget Sound area, a decision that preserves billions of dollars in voter-approved money earmarked for light trail and other projects.

Seven people had sued to overturn a rate increase by the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, known as Sound Transit.

Voters in 2016 approved the rate hike to fund the Sound Transit 3 expansion project. The voter-approved expansion project aims to build 62 miles of new light rail, reaching Everett in the North, Tacoma and new neighborhoods in Seattle and cities fast-growing cities to the east, including Kirkland and Redmond.

The lawsuit sought a refund of millions of dollars in car registration fees collected through the increase to help pay for the $54 billion expansion.

In a 7 to 2 decision the high court justices found that the motor vehicle excise tax used to pay for the Sound Transit projects was constitutional. The plaintiffs had said the MVET increase was illegal because it resulted from an unconstitutional provision in state law placing the plan on the ballot.

Many people who live within in Sound Transit taxing district, which stretches from Everett to south of Tacoma, have long complained that their car registration fees were too high and didn’t accurately reflect their vehicle’s’ value. Lawyers for the people who sued argued that Sound Transit was given too much leeway in determining how much a vehicle could be taxed and that the law authorizing the car fees was vague.