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Judge rejects most of legal challenge to Washington's $30 car-tab measure

A King County judge rejected most of a coalition's challenge to Tim Eyman's $30 car-tab measure.

SEATTLE — A King County Superior Court judge rejected most of the challenge to the voter-approved measure that would cap car-tab renewals at $30.

Judge Marshall Ferguson said King County and a coalition of Washington cities failed to carry the burden of demonstrating that the measure was unconstitutional on most of their claims, according to court documents

However, the judge reserved judgment on two issues: whether the initiative unlawfully impairs the contracting authority of the City of Burien, and on whether a requirement that car valuations be based on Kelley Blue Book values illegally favors a private company.

"I am thrilled this judge reversed himself and no longer thinks voters were confused, we never were," Eyman said in a statement to KING 5. "Voters have three times demanded $30 tabs and three times repudiated this dishonest tax. Their vote should be implemented immediately."

“I’m proud of the work of my office’s dedicated attorneys in upholding the will of the voters. We appreciate the court setting aside the antics of Tim Eyman, which made our job defending the will of the voters more difficult. It’s worth noting that the hearing in which Tim Eyman had an outburst, we lost, and the hearing in which Eyman remained silent, we won. I’ve said from the start that this case will ultimately be decided by the state Supreme Court. My office will continue working to uphold the will of the voters every step of the way," said Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson

RELATED: Republican lawmakers introduce bill to cap car tab fees at $30 in Washington

A preliminary injunction on the measure remains in place.

“We respectfully disagree with the ruling today from Judge Ferguson and will continue to make our case about the unconstitutionality of I-976," Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement. "Our residents have made it clear they support increasing transit, safer roads for everyone, and free ORCA for our young people, and voted overwhelmingly for transit and against this initiative. We will assess what impact this ruling will have, but we remain optimistic about the ultimate outcome.”

Judge Ferguson previously heard arguments on I-976, which voters approved in November. It caps most taxes paid through annual vehicle registration at $30 and largely revokes state and local authority governments to add new taxes and fees.

A coalition of cities, King County and Garfield County's transit agency sued, saying it would eviscerate funds they need to pay for transit and road maintenance.

The state’s budget office estimates I-976 would eliminate more than $4 billion in tax revenue by 2025.

RELATED: 'Move along, Tim': Gov. Inslee snubs anti-tax crusader

The coalition claims the initiative is unconstitutional because it violates the single-subject rule, which prevents bills from containing more than one subject and mandates that subject should be expressed in the title. They also called the initiative "a poorly drafted hodge-podge."

Dan Nolte, the communications director for the Seattle City Attorney's Office, sent the following statement: "We’re disappointed in the judge’s decision. We’re assessing the order and evaluating options for next steps."

A KING 5 News poll found 41% of voters surveyed wanted I-976 implemented as passed by the voters. Another 21% wanted the initaitive re-written and re-submitted to the voters. Just 9% of voters polled thought I-976 should be judged to be illegal.

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