Judge poised to let most of I-976 take effect on car tabs

A ruling Thursday indicates an injunction blocking most of the provisions could be lifted March 27.

Judge poised to let most of I-976 take effect on car tabs

SEATTLE — A King County Superior Court judge on Thursday indicated he’s prepared to order major provisions of Initiative 976 be put into effect — just not yet.

Judge Marshall Ferguson, in a four-page order, said he’s ready to lift an injunction that has blocked the measure’s provisions related to the cost of car tabs and the vehicle excise tax imposed by Sound Transit. If the initiative is upheld, it sets the stage for a potential legal fight as to whether Sound Transit would be required to retire its bonds and end the motor vehicle excise tax.

But the judge intends to wait until a hearing March 27 at which opponents will likely try to convince him to keep the entire voter-approved measure on hold.

“The judge kept the injunction in place for another two weeks,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement. “We look forward to providing briefing to lift the injunction so the initiative goes into effect as voters intended on March 27. I’ve said from the start, this case will ultimately be decided by the state Supreme Court.”

Last month, Judge Ferguson said a coalition of opponents including Seattle and King County had failed to prove most of their claims that the $30 car tab measure was unconstitutional. Those claims included that the description of the initiative on the ballot was misleading and that the measure violated the state Constitution’s rule that initiatives be limited to one subject.

At the time, he did not decide whether a requirement that car valuations be based on Kelley Blue Book values illegally favors a private company.

He did Thursday, ruling those provisions, spelled out in two sections of the initiative, are unconstitutional.

That pleased the coalition of opponents.

“We continue to believe that mentioning Kelley Blue Book in the ballot title renders the entire Initiative unconstitutional,” Seattle spokesman Dan Nolte said in an email. “We intend to raise this concern and the other issues of constitutional importance as this case moves forward.”

Meanwhile, the state Legislature this week approved a supplement to the state transportation budget that assumes the initiative would be upheld and there would be $453 million less in car tab collections to spend through July 2021.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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