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King County prosecutors asked to prepare I-976 lawsuit

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office was asked to prepare a lawsuit if I-976 was approved by Washington voters.

SEATTLE — King County Executive Dow Constantine asked the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office Wednesday to prepare a lawsuit challenging an initiative that will cap car-tab fees at $30.

The fourth round of election results showed 53.26% of voters approving Initiative 976. The Associated Press called the race Wednesday evening.

“The passage of I-976 underscores the ongoing need for comprehensive state tax reform, but in the short term we must clean up another mess that Tim Eyman has created for our state, our region, and our economy. There will be many discussions in the weeks and months ahead to determine how to overcome the loss of safety and mobility caused by this irresponsible initiative, but the impact of I-976 to transportation is – in a word – devastating,” said Constantine.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes also said Thursday that the city would pursue litigation to block I-976.

Sound Transit is preparing for up to $20 billion in losses for future transportation projects following the early election results. In an emailed statement, Sound Transit Board Chair and Redmond Mayor John Marchione said the board will "begin the process of responding to" Initiative 976.

Also see | Washington 2019 general election results

"The Board will hear presentations from the agency's finance staff as well as our general counsel," the statement continues. "The Board will consider Sound Transit's obligations to taxpayers who want their motor vehicle excise taxes reduced, as well as how to realize voters' earlier direction to dramatically expand high capacity transit throughout the Puget Sound region."

The subject line of the statement assumes the "passage of I-976."

As of Friday afternoon, the initiative to cap car-tab fees to $30 was passing with 53.23%.  Another round of ballots will be counted on Friday evening. 

RELATED: Voters barely rejecting Medina's proposed property tax increase

The initiative would eliminate extra fees for everything from electric vehicles to Sound Transit light rail projects. The state’s budget office estimates the passage of I-976 would eliminate more than $4 billion in tax revenue by 2025.

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

RELATED: State car-tab initiative, affirmative action measure too close to call

Initiative sponsor and anti-tax activist Tim Eyman says the state should use reserves and the Rainy Day Fund to pay for construction projects. Eyman said voters are tired of paying hundreds of dollars to renew car tabs.  

"Honesty won at the ballot box," said Eyman, during a press conference Tuesday evening, "because the voters finally had a chance to say enough with the dishonest tax, let's bring in something that's actually honest."

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