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Dori: Sound Transit attorney grilled by state Supreme Court justice

Sound Transit. (Sound Transit photo)

Tuesday was a devastating day for Sound Transit — and especially for a Sound Transit attorney — in front of the Washington State Supreme Court.

It’s currently being challenged with a lawsuit, because in Sound Transit 3, the $54 billion law that they passed in 2016, taxpayers did not know their car tabs would go up hundreds of dollars per vehicle.

We knew that the criminally corrupt agency was using a vehicle valuation schedule that severely overvalues our cars and thus overtaxes us.

But now it turns out that Sound Transit was not even using the schedule that it said it would in the tax law. Even the Supreme Court justices said that they had trouble finding what their cars would be taxed as.

Dori: Sound Transit ‘can’t afford’ $30 tabs, but can hire art consultants

“There are two versions of this old depreciation schedule — Sound Transit has claimed that it is using a 1999 version, and that is the version that the Department of Licensing confirms … but the conflict arises because Sound Transit, in drafting the tax authorization for ST3’s car tab tax, says they must abide by the 1996 car tab schedule,” explained Mariya Frost, director of the Coles Center for Transportation at the Washington Policy Center.

In one particular exchange, the Sound Transit attorney was basically saying, “Yeah, we might have broken the law in how this thing was written. But if you take it away now, we’re not going to be able to finish these projects because we’ll lose $15 billion to $18 billion dollars.”

But Justice Steven Gonzalez then cut the lawyer off, asking, “Why is the importance relevant to what the law is here? Why is that relevant?”

The attorney responded, “I think it relates to the fact that the standard of proof is that you don’t rule statutes unconstitutional unless it’s beyond a reasonable doubt.”

So, Sound Transit was saying that since there’s so much money at stake, maybe the court shouldn’t rule their tax unconstitutional.

But Justice Gonzalez absolutely owned this guy. He pointed out that the court would rule the same way, regardless of whether it was one dollar or billions at stake. The court’s standard is always to rule beyond a reasonable doubt.

That was one of the worst arguments I’ve ever heard before the Supreme Court. This has been Sound Transit’s strategy from the beginning.  Basically, “let’s just break ground, and people will say, ‘Well, we can’t abandon it now.’ Even though we did this illegally, you have to let us keep taxing people, or we won’t be able to finish the projects we already started.”

This was one of the best days ever for a Sound Transit critic like me.

“They’ve been arguing this whole time that they have not deceived the public, they have not deceived lawmakers, that it was abundantly clear what we would be taxed on our cars,” Frost said. “And just now in court, they said, ‘It actually doesn’t matter that it was not clear, because that’s not the purpose of this statute anyway.'”

Now, will the justices do the right thing? Will they smack this tax down? Will they start returning the illegally-taken money to us? That remains to be seen.

But for now, Sound Transit is on the ropes. And the taxpayers? We are back in the fight.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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