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Judge temporarily blocks I-976 from taking effect

Initiative 976 will not go into effect on Dec. 5 following a preliminary injunction.

Car-tab fees will not drop to $30 next week after a King County Superior Court judge granted a preliminary injunction on Initiative 976. 

Judge Marshall Ferguson cites "substantial concerns" that the initiative's description on the ballot was misleading.

If voter-approved I-976 were to be implemented, then "all Plaintiffs ... would eventually, inevitably be forced to cut a wide array of program and services due to reductions in fee/tax revenue..." Judge Ferguson wrote.

I-976, which voters approved earlier this month, caps car-tab fees at $30. The state’s budget office estimates I-976 would eliminate more than $4 billion in tax revenue by 2025.

RELATED: I-976 ruling is an ‘absolute insult’ to Pierce County voters, senator says

"We believe the court is correct in recognizing that I-976 is likely unconstitutional and ruling that the initiative would cause irreparable harm," King County Executive Down Constantine said.

A coalition, which includes King County and the City of Seattle, filed an injunction last week, claiming 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. A lawsuit also called the initiative "a poorly drafted hodge-podge." 

Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday's court injunction does not change his office's plans to pause a number of projects across the state. Inslee said his office will keep the pause on projects in order to make sure there are appropriate funds available, depending on how the Legislature rules. 

"Accordingly, state funds from car tabs be held separately and set aside to function as an escrow account. We will effectively go forward as the initiative is still in place and these funds will be available for refunds as determined by any further court order. The Department of Licensing will continue to collect car tab fees unless further instructed by the court," Islee said in part in a statement.

RELATED: Lacey man fears I-976 could affect the public transit he relies on for income

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said the reductions in funding from the measure would cut more than 100,000 bus hours and hamper her program to provide free bus access for students and low-income residents.

"This is good news for transit, safety, and equity in Seattle. We are pleased that the Court recognized the severe and irreparable harm to our residents that would have occurred without this injunction," Durkan said in a statement. "Our residents rely on Metro bus service, ORCA cards, neighborhood safety improvements and road maintenance."

Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office, which is defending I-976, disputed those claims, pointing to the city’s growing transportation budget.

“This is not a final judgment, and this case is far from over. We will continue working to defend the will of the voters,” Ferguson said in a statement Wednesday. “This case will ultimately wind up before the State Supreme Court. We are working now to determine our immediate next steps.”

Until a final ruling on I-976 is made, the effects of the initiative cannot go into effect. 

The initiative was set to go into effect on December 5.

RELATED: Initiative 976 sponsor Tim Eyman formally announces Governor run

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