‘Justice for Seattle voters’: Initiative 976 is struck down by Washington State Supreme Court

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
Sound Transit
Streets around U District Station in Seattle are re-opening.
Sound Transit

The Washington State Supreme Court has struck down Initiative 976, which would have capped car tab fees at $30. The measure was passed by voters last November, and would have cost cities and transit agencies billions of dollars in lost revenue.

During opening arguments in front of a Washington State Supreme Court judge back on June 30, Matthew Segal, representing the plaintiffs, argued I-976 goes against the state’s constitution and that voters were misled at the ballot box. On the ballot it said the measure would cap car tabs at $30. Segal said nobody would pay less than $43.25, and some could pay even more. Segal also said the initiative goes against the state’s “single-subject rule.”

“In sum, I-976 is a classic example of pairing an end that will attract certain votes (a $30 car tab fee) with another end that will attract potentially different votes (requiring Sound Transit to raise funds to retire or defease bonds) in order to reach what turned out to be a slim majority of the total votes,” stated a brief filed by the appellants.

The Supreme Court agreed on Oct. 15, finding that the initiative did violate the single-subject rule, and also said the ballot title was inaccurate.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said the ruling was a “justice for Seattle voters.”

“Even before the pandemic and economic crisis, Seattle’s transportation budget was unnecessarily decimated by I-976 last year and our residents and businesses have felt the real impacts of the cuts,” she said on Twitter.

Sound Transit was expecting to lose billions of dollars if Initiative 976 was upheld, and was looking at ways cutting and delaying critical projects and services.

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