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State AG files motion in bid to enact $30 car tab measure

WA State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. (KIRO 7)

After a King County judge put a pause on a recently-approved $30 car tabs measure, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is asking the state Supreme Court to allow the initiative to move forward as planned.

WA Attorney General’s office says Seattle can withstand I-976 passing

Ferguson filed an emergency motion Monday, citing the need to adhere to the will of the voters who approved I-976.

“When Washington voters approved Initiative 976, they sent a clear message that they wanted to reduce vehicle taxes and fees, a result that should have occurred as soon as the measure began taking effect December 5, 2019,” the motion reads. “But the voters’ will is now stymied by a preliminary injunction.”

In granting the injunction in November, King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson ultimately decided that Seattle and King County “are likely to prevail on the merits of their constitutional challenge to I-976,” specifically on the idea that the measure was misleading to voters in its scope.

Now, the measure is on hold while I-976 faces a challenge in court, filed by Seattle, King County, and other transit-oriented groups.

Those groups have claimed that the $30 car tabs initiative will do “irreparable” harm to the state’s transportation budget. Ferguson countered that claim in his motion Monday, citing a handful of other potential revenue sources.

“Local governments in Washington have several revenue sources available to fund transportation, from a range of taxes to state and federal grants,” he noted.

Ferguson requested a ruling on his petition from the court before Thursday, Dec. 5, the date the measure was originally scheduled to take effect.

As Washington’s Attorney General, defending I-976 in court falls to Ferguson’s office, something that the measure’s sponsor, Tim Eyman, has objected to throughout the process.

Washington’s $30 car tab debacle could have been avoided

Eyman has been embroiled in a legal battle with Ferguson for years over the use of campaign funds, something he claims makes Ferguson biased against the defense of I-976. Washington State Sen. Steve O’Ban echoed those sentiments recently.

“There’s no question but that he has a conflict of interest,” O’Ban told KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show.

Ferguson balked at that suggestion, pointing out in a recently-released written statement that “it is the job of the Attorney General’s Office to defend (an) initiative against legal challenges.”

In his statement, he cites his past defense of Eyman initiatives, including of I-1366, which would have required a two-thirds vote for any tax increase in Washington state. That measure was struck down in 2016, with a court labeling it an end-around to adding an amendment to the state’s constitution (something that legally can’t be passed in an initiative).

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