Judge rules car-tab initiative unconstitutional

Initiative 776, Tim Eyman’s latest anti-tax measure to pass the ballot, was ruled unconstitutional Monday by a King County Superior Court judge.

The voter-approved measure, which won in November by 51 percent of the statewide vote, sought for a second time to limit vehicle license-tab fees in Washington state to $30.

Although I-776 was narrowly approved, it was opposed by 56 percent of voters in the Sound Transit District.

This district includes the most populated and congested areas of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties and is the only area where people are paying for Sound Transit’s services and projects.

In Seattle, where residents are financing the majority the Central Link light rail project, 70.1 percent of voters opposed I-776.

I-766 also sought to eliminate a $15 road improvement fee in King, Pierce, Snohomish and Douglas counties and to kill Sound Transit’s motor vehicle tax in parts of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

For Pierce County, the $15 per vehicle license fee amounts to $4 million a year.

In her ruling Monday, Superior Court Judge Mary Yu agreed with plaintiffs, including the city of Tacoma and King and Pierce counties, that Initiative 776 illegally lumped two separate issues onto one ballot measure.

“Initiative 776 is unconstitutional in its entirety and therefore, cannot be enforced,” Judge Yu said. “The state and its subdivisions are hereby permanently enjoined from taking any action to implement or enforce any section of Initiative 776.”

Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg welcomed the ruling, expressing confidence that Judge Yu’s decision would be upheld by the Washington State Supreme Court.

“Everyone understands this case is going to be appealed to the Supreme Court,” Ladenburg said. “While we’re perfectly happy with the decision of the judge today in our favor and the finding that we were right about the unconstitutionality of the initiative, we really need the Supreme Court to agree. And, we fully expect that to happen later this year.”

Eyman and his political action group, Permanent Offense, argued the initiative had one subject with multiple consequences, including the evaluation of Sound Transit.

Eyman said he plans to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

In Tacoma, Sound Transit’s Link light rail service is scheduled to begin operation this fall.