Battle over $30 car tabs heads to Washington State Supreme Court
Mix anti-tax activist Tim Eyman with a $30 dollar car tab initiative and a judge, and you’ve got all the makings of a months-long, drawn-out headline-grabbing legal battle on your hands. That’s pretty much where things stand roughly five months after Washington voters approved I-976 on the November 2019 ballot.
The latest chapter puts the future of $30 car tabs squarely in the hands of the Washington State Supreme Court.
I-976 was meant to attract drivers upset with the unexpectedly high increase in their car tab bills that came with the approval of ST3, the $54 billion dollar light rail expansion approved by voters in 2016.
But the car tabs measure went much further, also eliminating various state and local vehicle fees, transit benefit districts, decimating bus and transit service for various agencies, and gutting local road repair dollars, while leaving a nearly half-billion dollar hole in the state’s transportation budget.
In November, the City of Seattle, King County and various transit agencies sued, claiming I-976 was unconstitutional. Within weeks, a King County judge put a temporary injunction in place to keep the $30 car tab measure from taking effect while the court case played out.
That meant drivers hoping for that elusive break from in their out-of-control car tab fees would have to wait for that relief.
Since then, a series of complicated rulings, stays, and injunctions have played out in King County court, including a judge earlier last month upholding the bulk of I-976 as constitutional.
Not long after that, more legal maneuvering led to some parts of I-976 being separated out of the larger legal challenge, with King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson indicating he was about the lift the injunction and let the $30 car tab measure take effect.
Language in the ruling was so tricky, Eyman actually thought he’d won. What it actually amounted to, though, was one last chance for Seattle and others to convince the judge to keep the temporary pause in place.
In the end, Judge Ferguson lifted the injunction, but then paused his own order at the request of Seattle and others, when they filed an emergency request with the state Supreme Court for a brand new injunction to keep I-976 from kicking in while the ongoing legal battle now plays out in the state’s high court.
Next, the Washington State Supreme Court will take up the issue of injunction at the end of April.