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Sound Transit won’t cut projects until courts decide I-976

Sound Transit's board chair said the agency would wait to take action until a judge decides on the constitutionality of the $30 car-tab initiative.

SEATTLE — Sound Transit's Board will take a wait and see approach before making any cuts as a result of Initiative 976, which slashes car-tab fees to $30.

After two hours of deliberations and testimony from initiative sponsor Tim Eyman, Board President John Marchione said Thursday the board would not take any action until the courts resolve the issue.  

In fact, Sound Transit's lead attorney suggested that I-976 doesn't repeal motor-vehicle excise taxes until more than $2 billion in bonds are repaid. 

Yet, Sound Transit also warned that if legal challenges fail, the agency would lose $7.2 billion in revenue through 2041 and would "run out of financial capacity" as early as 2029, forcing the board to cancel projects, delay projects, or reduce services.

RELATED: I-976 blows $478 million hole in state transportation budget

RELATED: State outlines changes to car tab fees after I-976 approval

The agency previously said it did not plan to recommend delaying or deferring projects that are already under construction or under contract, including the Northgate, East Link, and Hilltop Tacoma light rail extensions, which are all under construction. A Sound Transit spokesperson said it would be "wasteful" of taxpayer money to do so.

The City of Seattle and multiple agencies will testify before a judge on Tuesday seeking an injunction to delay the implementation of I-976 next month.

Eyman used the announcement as a bit of a springboard, saying the comments from the Board were indicative of why voters are so angry. He also announced he will file a bid Monday to run for Governor against Jay Inslee on "an issue oriented campaign." This was a reversal from when he ruled out the idea just two weeks ago.

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