Judge indicates car tab initiative could go into effect

SEATTLE — A King County Superior Court judge issued a ruling Thursday saying the car-tab tax cuts included in Initiative 976, with the exception of using Kelley Blue Book to calculate the taxes, should be allowed to take effect.

Drivers will wait a little longer for the tax break, however, because Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson indicated he will wait to lift his injunction until a hearing scheduled for March 27, The Seattle Times reported.

The city of Seattle and others at that hearing are likely to argue that the measure should stay on hold. Ferguson earlier said King County and a coalition of Washington cities had failed to show the $30 car tab measure was unconstitutional.

Ferguson’s order is the latest in a legal battle over Initiative 976, the Tim Eyman-sponsored ballot measure to greatly reduce most car-tab taxes. Voters statewide approved the initiative in November, but legal challenges have stopped it from taking effect. Seattle, King County and others argue the measure is unconstitutional and say the measure would gut transportation budgets.

The judge found that two sections of the initiative, which would have required the state to calculate car-tab taxes based on Kelley Blue Book, are unconstitutional and severed them from the initiative. But he had previously upheld the majority of the initiative.

In a tweet, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who is defending the initiative, said the order indicates I-976 will “largely take effect March 27, unless the judge takes further action.”

The Seattle City Attorney’s Office, which is challenging the initiative, said in a statement the judge “invalidated a major portion of I-976, by agreeing with the City and its coalition partners including King County that the Kelley Blue Book provisions were unconstitutional. We continue to believe that mentioning Kelley Blue Book in the ballot title renders the entire Initiative unconstitutional.”