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Washington Judge Reinstates Vote To Lower Car Taxes
Washington state judge reverses course and allows most of Initiative 976 to take effect, lowering car registration fees to $30.

Tim Eyman
The votes of over a million Washington state residents in favor of lowering car registration fees (known as tabs) will now count. King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson on Thursday formally reversed his injunction that had blocked the "$30 car tabs" Initiative 976 from taking effect. Initiative sponsor Tim Eyman, a Republican candidate for governor, was pleased by the result while cautioning that local government has not given up on trying to evade the law.

"Everyone's vehicle costs have been lowered dramatically effective today," Eyman told supporters last week. "But Sound Transit's dishonest vehicle tax and Sound Transit's artificially-inflated vehicle valuation schedule will continue to be imposed on vehicle owners because Sound Transit refuses to abide by I-976's Section 12."

Voters in November approved the referendum to limit the yearly fee for registering a vehicle to $30 and base taxes on a vehicle's value on the Kelley Blue Book, instead of an inflated valuation schedule designed to boost tax revenue. The measure also eliminated the ability of Sound Transit to impose taxes on drivers to pay for transit projects in Seattle.

Furious local governments immediately went to the courts to have the voter initiative thrown out as unconstitutional. After delaying the measure, Judge Ferguson found he could not block it for good.

"A court may not strike down an initiative simply because it dislikes it or disagrees with its policies," he wrote in an order last month.

The court found the initiative did not violate the rule that such measures must only cover a single subject, because all of the provisions in I-976 concerned the reduction or repeal of motor vehicle taxes and fees. He also rejected the cities' argument that the ballot title was misleading.

"Ultimately, a plain reading of I-976's ballot title indicates to an inquiring mind the scope and purpose of the initiative, and gives notice that would lead to an inquiry into the body of the act," Judge Ferguson. "For these reasons... the court concludes that plaintiffs have failed to satisfy their burden of establishing, beyond a reasonable doubt, that I-976 violates the subject-in-title rule of Article II, section 19 of the Washington Constitution."

Appeals of the ruling are likely. The order is available in a 2mb PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Garfield County Transportation Authority v. Washington (King County, Washington Superior Court, 2/12/2020)

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