The Washington Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously struck down Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976, a measure that would have steeply discounted the price of car registrations at $30 while gutting transportation budgets across the state.
The justices said the measure violated the state Constitution’s requirement that initiatives be limited to a single subject and that its description on the ballot was misleading.
A coalition of cities, King County, and Garfield County’s transit agency brought the lawsuit, saying it would eviscerate funds they need to pay for transit and road maintenance. According to the state Office of Financial Management, it would have cost the state and local governments more than $4 billion in revenue over the next six years.
The challengers cited myriad reasons the measure was unconstitutional, but one of the most prominent was the argument that its ballot title lied about what the measure would do. Using language drawn from the measure itself, the ballot said in part the measure would “limit annual motor-vehicle-license fees to $30, except voter-approved charges,” and then asked voters whether it should be approved.
Justice Steven Gonzalez called that “deceptive and misleading”: It implied that local taxes approved by voters, like those used to fund local transit, would survive. In reality, I-976 would have revoked those taxes along with the authority of local voters to approve them in the future. (AP)