State Supreme Court strikes down $30 car tab initiative

The state Supreme Court has struck down the voter-approved $30 car tab initiative. 

The court ruled Thursday morning that I-976, the Tim Eyman-sponsored initiative that would cap car tab costs at $30, is unconstitutional. 

In the ruling, justices wrote that the measure covered too many subjects, which is against state law, and also had an inaccurate ballot title. 

The ruling does, however, remand part of the case back to lower level courts. 

Eyman's initiative not only caps annual vehicle registration at $30, it also prohibits state and local governments from adding new taxes and fees without voter approval. 

Washington voters approved the measure with 53 percent of the vote. I-976 also would have repealed taxes and fees that had already been collected, stripping local governments of more than $4 billion in revenue over the next five-six years. 

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose office had to defend I-976 in court, released the following statement: 

“I’m proud of my legal team, who worked long hours to defend the will of the voters, arguing successfully at the trial court that Initiative 976 was constitutional.

To be candid, we knew this would be a difficult case. I-976 is the latest in a long list of Eyman tax initiatives struck down by the courts. In fact, Tim Eyman has never written a successful tax initiative that passed legal muster. Every one of his tax initiatives has been thrown out or partially blocked by the courts.

Tim Eyman will, of course, do what he has done throughout this case — blame everyone but himself. He will again blame my outstanding legal team, even though the Supreme Court allowed interveners to present Eyman’s arguments.

He will again blame my office for language in the ballot title that he specifically requested to be included in the title, and that was pulled word-for-word from his initiative. He should look in the mirror and apologize to voters for once again sending them an initiative that failed to survive a legal challenge and deliver on its promises.”

The majority of voters agreed with Eyman's assertion that vehicle registration costs are too high, though local governments, labor unions and large companies like Amazon and Microsoft came out against the measure. 

More than 60 cities use car-tab fees to pay for road construction, bus service and sidewalks. The state also charges fees to help pay for programs including Washington State Patrol traffic enforcement, highway maintenance, ferry operations and maintenance of county roads and bridges.

“We knew this initiative had some fairly obvious legal problems from the outset. Mr. Eyman has never sponsored an initiative that’s withstood legal challenge, so today’s decision shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The court rightly recognized that a clearly inaccurate initiative title and logrolling subjects is unlawful," said Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes.

Eyman said he and state Rep. Jim Walsh will speak about the ruling on the steps of the state Supreme Court in Olympia at 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

“Pierce County and the voters in my district voted overwhelmingly for I-976. My constituents don’t believe light rail will benefit them, just Seattle," state Sen. Steve O'Ban said. "I am deeply disappointed that the court ignored taxpayers, rejected the holding of the lower court, and struck down the voter approved I-976."

You can read the court's ruling below: 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.