Judge hearing arguments in challenge to Tim Eyman's $30 car tab measure could decide next week

A King County Superior Court judge who has already temporarily blocked initiative promoter Tim Eyman's latest $30 car tab measure from taking effect says he hopes to rule next week on whether it's constitutional.

Judge Marshall Ferguson is hearing arguments Friday on Initiative 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.

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.

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.

Ferguson expressed concern at a November hearing that language in the initiative was misleading.