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caption: The Seattle skyline behind heavy traffic on northbound Interstate 5 in 2011.
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The Seattle skyline behind heavy traffic on northbound Interstate 5 in 2011.
Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Washington's $30 car tabs on hold as judge slaps injunction on I-976

Initiative 976 — the $30 car tab measure — has been put on hold while a legal challenge moves forward.

A King County Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that opponents had adequately argued that the measure's ballot title was misleading, and he issued an injunction.

Judge Marshall Ferguson also agreed with the plaintiffs, including King County and the city of Seattle, that there would be immediate harm if the initiative were to take effect December 5.

The plaintiffs told the court that King County alone would lose $2.68 million by Christmas, and transit and transportation agencies have said they could lose billions. The state has already issued a list of projects that could be cut.

The plaintiffs had argued that the way the initiative appeared on ballot was unconstitutional. Judge Ferguson said they had sufficiently shown that they were likely to prevail.

"Plaintiffs have raised substantial concerns as to whether I-976's ballot title was misleading," Ferguson said.

That summary appeared to say any voter-approved car tab fees would be exempt under I-976. But the actual language of the initiative says only fees approved after Dec. 5 would be exempt.

But Judge Ferguson said the court could decide the ballot title was constitutional if other arguments are raised.

Voters approved I-976 with about 53 percent of the vote. The measure's sponsor, Tim Eyman, is now running for governor, partly citing the local governments' opposition to slashing car tab fees.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson was in the odd position of having to defend Eyman's initiative in court; he's won case against case against Eyman over campaign finance violations.

"We will continue working to defend the will of the voters," AG Ferguson said in a statement. "This case will ultimately wind up before the State Supreme Court."

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan called the ruling "good news for transit, safety, and equity in Seattle."