Seven area residents file class-action lawsuit against Sound Transit 3 car-tab fees

TACOMA, Wash. -- Seven people on Tuesday filed a class-action lawsuit in Pierce County Superior Court to require Sound Transit to pay back $240 million in car-tab revenue for the light rail extension and that it stop collecting the fees.

The suit contends the taxes are unauthorized because the law passed in 2015 that allowed the agency to send Sound Transit 3 to the ballot was unconstitutional.

The suit says that in 1990, Washington state developed a depreciation formula for estimating a car's value for tax purposes, but that inflated formula was replaced with a more accurate depreciation formula in 2006. But because Sound Transit had already sold bonds based on the earlier tax rate and depreciation schedule, it has continued to use the old formula until the bonds are paid off in another 10 years.

The suit alleges that is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was organized by state Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn, but he is not part of the lawsuit.

State Sen. Steve O'Ban, R-University Place, said he supported the lawsuit.

“I am pleased to see that this lawsuit has been brought against Sound Transit confirming what I have said repeatedly over the last year: Sound Transit has been unconstitutionally overcharging tax payers in Snohomish, King and Pierce Counties since the passage of ST3," O'Ban said in a news release.

"One of the key findings from the (state Senate committees) investigation was that Sound Transit unconstitutionally drafted a statute that violated Article II, section 37 of the Washington State Constitution. This is exactly the same basis for the lawsuit against Sound Transit and I am glad that the people will get their day in court," O'Ban said.