SEATTLE (AP) — A judge on Wednesday blocked Tim Eyman’s $30 car tab measure from taking effect in Washington state while cities and counties challenge its legality, citing “substantial concerns” that the initiative’s description on the ballot was misleading.

Voters approved Initiative 976 earlier this month. It caps most taxes paid through annual vehicle registration at $30 and largely revokes the authority of state and local governments to add new taxes and fees.

The city of Seattle, King County, Garfield County’s transit agency and a coalition of cities across the state sued to stop the measure, saying it would eviscerate funds they need to pay for transit and road maintenance. It would cost the state and local governments more than $4 billion in revenue over the next six years, according to the state Office of Financial Management.

Seattle said it would have to cut 110,000 bus hours. Garfield County said it would have to cut by half the transportation services it provides to help seniors and disabled people get to the grocery store, the doctor and other appointments.

The plaintiffs have noted that the ballot summary said I-976 would “limit annual motor-vehicle-license fees to $30, except voter-approved charges.” That suggested to voters that locally approved measures, such as additional license fees passed by Seattle voters to pay for improved bus service and voters’ agreement to fund Seattle-area Sound Transit light rail projects, would survive, they said.

As the full text of the measure shows, however, only fees approved by voters in the future would be allowed, and the authority of local jurisdictions to seek such measures to begin with would also be curtailed.

King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson expressed concern during a hearing Tuesday that language was misleading, and in his order Wednesday he said the plaintiffs were likely to win their case. He ordered Washington state to cease efforts to implement the initiative on Dec. 5, when it was due to take effect, pending further orders.

The judge emphasized that he had not reached a final determination that the measure is unconstitutional, and he said it was not a foregone conclusion that he would strike it down — only that the challengers had made enough of a case to stop its implementation while the legal case proceeds.

He noted that if the state and cities continue to collect the vehicle taxes and fees as they have been, they can later refund that money if the initiative is upheld. But if they stop collecting the money while the case proceeds, there’s no way for them to collect them retroactively.

Eyman did not immediately return a message seeking comment. The chairman of the state Republican Party, Caleb Heimlich, called the decision “a disrespectful and blatant miscarriage of justice towards the voters of Washington state.”

“This is not a final judgment, and this case is far from over,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose office is defending the initiative, said in an emailed statement. “We will continue working to defend the will of the voters. This case will ultimately wind up before the State Supreme Court.”

During Tuesday’s hearing, Alan Copsey, a lawyer for the state, disagreed that the language was deceptive. He argued that measure descriptions on the ballot are limited to 30 words, so not every effect can be described.

The ballot language said the measure would “repeal, reduce, or remove authority to impose certain vehicle taxes and fees,” and that should have put voters on notice that they needed to read the initiative’s full language if they wanted to know what it did, he said.

The ballot title and summary are supplied by the Attorney General’s Office. In this case, the language was drawn directly from the first section of the initiative.

The initiative’s sponsor, Eyman, is a longtime antitax initiative promoter who recently announced a run for governor. His $30 car tab initiative first passed 20 years ago. It was struck down in court before being enacted by lawmakers. The fees have crept up as lawmakers allowed them and voters in some places approved them.

Eyman also promoted the initiative as a way to undo a car-tab fee hike collected by Sound Transit in the Puget Sound region. The agency uses a method of vehicle valuation that inflates some car values. Voters approved the increase as part of a light-rail expansion package in 2016 for King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. Some drivers experienced car tab sticker shock after the measure was approved and costs soared. One lawsuit over the valuations is before the state’s high court.

The attorney general’s office is typically charged with defending the constitutionality of state laws, but Eyman wants the office recused from the case because Ferguson has sued him over campaign finance issues. Eyman has twice been held in contempt of court for refusing to cooperate with court rules.

Eyman spoke up in court without invitation during Tuesday’s hearing in part to criticize the attorney general’s office, and afterward he confronted state lawyers and accused them of deliberately sabotaging I-976 by not making all the arguments Eyman wanted them to make.

In his statement Wednesday, the attorney general — who is not related to the judge — called that wildly inappropriate.

“It hurt our chances of successfully defending the people’s initiative,” Ferguson said.

(16) comments


This is a blatant overreach of the Wa. State Government going against the will of its citizens, another example of runaway spending were theirs only one way to meet there inflated Gov. Bureaucracy budget through high taxes with tabs and a rigged court system.

Desert Dweller

Will of the people, don't mean much in this state. Will of King County is the whole deal.


Is ANYONE really surprised that ONE King County resident thinks he should make a decision that overrules almost EVERY single county's overwhelming support of voters?? And while I seriously doubt the GOVERNMENT courts will uphold this law because GOVERNMENT bureaucrats are whining they need more money from taxpayers, it does make me smile and even send a little laugh at what they are truly saying with this court case. YOU, the Voter and Taxpayer, are TO DOG GONE IGNORANT to fully understand what you are voting for and so the court needs to step in and overrule the WHOLE VOTE so the smart people of KING county can show us (The rest of the state) the error or our ways.. UGH Wake UP KING COUNTY!!


Just because it's on the ballot doesn't mean it's legal. Eyman could write an initiative asking the State to pay every driver $30 to register their cars. It would probably pass, but it wouldn't hold up in court. Why should tabs be the same price as they were 20 years ago when everything else (including asphalt and labor) is far more expensive?


Spoken like a true King County Salted implant.. Why do people even move from that wonderful place and culture if you just tell everyone in the new place you live that everything where you live now is done wrong and their culture backwards?? I, as usual, find it amazing that someone thinks the will of the people in a democracy can be "illegal".. What part of democracy do People from King County just fail to comprehend.. What part of life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness -- do People from King County fail to comprehend and appreciate?? Does King County and it's People think they are so superior they need to show "us" the error of our backwards ways??

I-976 was more than about $30 Tabs:

It was about voicing to a government that we are tired of Nonsense fees.. Like a "Reflectivity fee" .. Are you telling me they are charging Us for PAINTING the license plate they force us to purchase every 5 years??

It was about telling the State Government that fair market value of a vehicle is NOT some inflated unrealistic value the state has been valuing vehicles at, but the actual value that your vehicle would be worth if you bought or sold that vehicle..

It was about telling the State to knock off the nonsense with treating it's citizens(back to the concept of democracy) like a bunch of ignorant Paupers. The make-believe Fees and half-heartedly following the will of the LOCAL People HAS to stop.. You even are starting to see and feel the DEEP resentment arise once again at a "DISTANT" and "DISCONNECT" government entity from far away lands telling it's citizens how to do everything and this BALLOT, I think, was a wake-up call telling those out of touch people who want to control every aspect of everyone's lives to STOP with the nonsense fees, valuations, and unjust attitudes.


I've never lived in King County. Grant and Kittitas since I've been in WA. I lived further down the coast 20 years ago, but why should that matter? I'm an Eastern Washington liberal. There are more of us every day.

The will of the people is often illlegal. What do you think would happen if initiatives weren't subject to legal review? In a way, the legal review process protects Eastern Washington from Western Washington. That's the "tyrrany of the majority" thing that the Framers warned us about.

As for the sales tax, it takes...what...30 seconds to say "that's not accurate" and have the DOL back down? If you're paying what they ask the first time, you're paying the Stupid Tax.


@Cheborschtka -- It’s all about people’s attitude and them “telling” the population that THEY moved to -- that so many things the population you wanted to be part of – are doing it wrong. Everyone has an opinion and that’s great to have new ideas but these days’ people think their opinion should be the way everyone does it.

Did you just say that the “will of the people is often illegal”?? How is that even possible in a democracy?? The will of the people IS the law.. Now the will of the people might be unethical, immoral, and just plain wrong but it is NEVER illegal. Do you think there are some divine guaranteed rights and laws that must be followed whether a majority of a population wants to or not and if not then the high rulers of the land shall correct the wrong and punish the unethical behavior?? Maybe, after life, but I do not know of any law that says the Will of the majority of a population in a democracy is “illegal”..

I have NO idea what “legal review process” you might be referring to that protects Eastern Washington from Western Washington. Over and over you see the wishes of Eastern Washington Residents trampled on because Western Washington Values are deemed “superior” even though they have no direct involvement in most of the issues they interpret and tell us how to do them according to Western Washington values (Or down the Coast values even).

As for the sales tax, you obviously are misinformed. You cannot object to the valuation and say “that’s not accurate” and the DOL will “back down”. The DOL office does not have that authority to lower the values of vehicles UNLESS you have a signed declaration that the vehicle has major issues that must be fixed..

Your last statement really cements my opinion that some people think lower of Eastern Washington’s People. We are not “stupid” and paying a “Stupid Tax” just because we cannot lower a car’s valuation as determined by the state of Washington.


You're looking straight at my handle and you still can't spell it right? What point is there in arguing with someone like that?


So the King County Judge put a hold on the $30.00 fee because the people who voted for it must have miss-read it. When did one have to prove that they read and understood what they were voting on in order to vote. What would be interesting is if the King County vote was upheld for King County and the rest of us got to keep our vote FOR the $30.00 max. car tabs ( unless we vote to increase them ). Now that won't happen with a state wide vote, but the look on their faces when they have to pay more for their toys etc. I understood what I was voting on, doesn't my informed vote count? You must not have read or understood what you were voting on. " Why should tabs be the same price as they were 20 years ago when everything else (including asphalt and labor) is far more expensive? " If you read the entire description you would have understood that if the state wanted to increase the tab fee amount, it would have to be voted on by the people, not just added on by some govt' office or official.


I read the full description. So what you're saying is that the people have to approve any increase. So what happens when the price of asphalt and labor goes up? Do we raise bother taxes to fix the roads? Do we just let them deteriorate? It costs more now to stamp plates, hire clerical staff, print titles, etc. Should the government subsidize that? Isn't that communism?


This is why we needed this fix. I owned a 2009 Impala. I had a vehicle license with 3 letters and 3 numbers. The license # was provided by the state. It was easy to remember. After 3 years I got a notice from DOL that I HAD to pay for a new license plate because now I needed a 7 digit number because that's what the new DOL computer used. This explanation came directly from DOL...I called them. The new license plate fee was $45.00...just for the plate. I asked if I could keep the old plate #. They told me I could, but it would cost me $25.00 to do that. ( they just told me that the new computer system had to use 7 digits ). What a scam. After this happened, our local radio station had for a quest an assistant director of WSDOL. I called in and asked him about the whole new plate thing and why I had to have one. He did not answer my question. This is why, We the People, should vote on new fees and taxes. If you think that YOUR fees are to low, by all means write a check to DOR.WA.GOV I'm sure they would take it. Then you can feel all good inside.


Here's where you need to educate yourself. Instead of thinking selfishly--"It's bad because it costs money"--think about the overall good of this type of governmental action. License plates are like phone numbers--a series of digits that uniquely identify an individual. Law enforcement uses them to remove drunk drivers from the road, to identify criminal suspects, and so on. Imagine if we had kept the original telephone number system out of respect for those who wanted to keep their numbers. You'd have six-digit phone numbers, folks going by "Chrysanthemum six-nine-four-twenty" and so on. How would you remember all the different designations? We went to seven digits with area code because it's easier to know when you have the complete number. License plate numbers carry a wealth of information, but only if the person on the other end of the call records the entire number. I have no idea why they would allow folks to retain their original number for an additional charge, but I'd bet it's to appease grumpy people who place their own convenience above the need for uniformity in identification--essentially you're buying a vanity plate with numbers and letters on it. Always assuming that the government is trying to rip you off is not productive. it's borderline paranoid. Nearly always, there's a very good reason behind the decisions that are made.

Desert Dweller

Gotta love those coast liberals. They could screw up an anvil in a sandbox.


Or a metaphor on a website? 😛

Screw up an anvil in a sandbox? What does that mean?


Talk about Anvils..

Anvil sayings have been around forever.. I'll explain it for you as a courtesy.. Anvils are heavy blocks of metal.. It's almost impossible to break them, screw them up, or think of them as anything intelligent..

Saying coast Liberals could screw up an anvil in a sandbox.. It's impossible for a normal person to screw up anything with an anvil by putting it into a sandbox but someway, somehow, for some reason that person or people could screw-up that brainless task!!


I know what an anvil is. I use one. Using one in a sandbox would be stupid. Playground sand--when impacted--releases particles that lead to silicosis. But that's beside the point. Where the hammer is--in a sandbox, on a concrete floor, on a mattress--makes no difference to the anvil. Now, a metaphor like "You could mess up an anvil with a rubber mallet" would work. My point, though, is not that the metaphor is dumb. The point is that in both this initiative and in this metaphor, things weren't thought through carefully enough.

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