Sound Transit attorneys have ‘doubts’ that settlement would be legal
Update Wednesday AM: Sound Transit responds
Sound Transit responded to a proposed deal. Agency spokesperson Geoff Patrick sent the following statement:
“The proposed settlement is related to a lawsuit that challenges Sound Transit’s ability to collect the MVET under the same vehicle depreciation schedule that has been in place for two decades, under legislation that was extensively debated. We are confident in the validity of the law and our attorneys are responding to the lawsuit.
“While the settlement offer will be reviewed, our attorneys have significant doubts the settlement would be legal since neither of the parties have the ability to unilaterally declare a law unconstitutional. Moreover, the Sound Transit Board cannot unilaterally reduce tax collections required to implement voter-approved projects. The adjustment proposed by the plaintiffs would significantly reduce MVET funding and could delay or eliminate transit alternatives. ”
Sound Transit’s ability to use an out-dated and over-valued calculation for your car tabs remains under attack in court as the ST3 lawsuit proceeds. But lawyers offered the agency a deal Tuesday.
A class-action lawsuit was filed in Pierce County last month that argued that the taxing authority in voter-approved Sound Transit 3 (ST3) is unconstitutional because it did not tell legislators or the public how the car tab fees would be calculated. That calculation is based on a 1996 valuation system that was eventually repealed and replaced in 2006.
ST3 lawsuit deal
The plaintiffs want the car tabs thrown out and drivers refunded, putting billions of dollars worth of ST3 funding in jeopardy. Under the deal, lawyers want Sound Transit to adopt the newer, more car-owner friendly 2006 valuation, and repay the difference in tabs. According to Joel Ard of Immix Law Group, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, says this difference could amount to hundreds of dollars per car owner.
“They’ve collected over $400 million in car tabs from March or so of last year through July of this year pursuant to that ST3 levy,” Ard told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “And as far as we’re concerned, the way it’s written, all of that is unconstitutional.”
Sound Transit has said it must use the older valuations because it issues bonds attached to them.
“If Sound Transit won’t compromise, we are in fact confident that we’re right and that we’re going to win this,” Ard said.
Still, Ard said that he would rather find a mutually beneficial agreement that will satisfy both sides and include “a lot of prompt relief for taxpayers who every year walk in and see that car tab bill, and at the same time, [for] folks who count on and believe in the light rail … that can stay in place, albeit at a lower levy rate.”
“There are supporters as well as opponents of Sound Transit in the area, they did get a lot of support for this levy and building these things, and compromise is an appropriate way to resolve litigation,” he stated.
- Tune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 12 noon for The Dori Monson Show.