Washington voters approved Initiative 976 earlier this month in a vote of 53% to 47%. The measure, sponsored by Tim Eyman, was designed to limit annual license fees for vehicles weighing under 10,000 pounds at $30 except voter-approved charges, base vehicle taxes on the Kelley Blue Book value rather than 85% of the manufacturer’s base suggested retail price, and repeal authorization for certain regional transit authorities, such as Sound Transit, to impose motor vehicle excise taxes.
Shortly after the election, nine plaintiffs including the City of Seattle, King County, the Washington State Transit Association, and the Association of Washington Cities filed a lawsuit seeking to block I-976 from taking effect. The State of Washington was named as the defendant.
The plaintiffs argue that I-976 is unconstitutional, violated the single-subject rule, and misled voters. Plaintiffs wrote, “As with prior initiatives by the same sponsor, I-976 is a poorly drafted hodge-podge that violates multiple provisions of the Constitution.” Tim Eyman wrote, “Seattle government suing the voters because they didn’t like the voters’ decision is arrogant and infuriating. The people outside Seattle don’t want these dishonest vehicle taxes and fees and they shouldn’t be forced to continue to pay them just because Seattle is OK with such dishonesty.”
Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) would be tasked with defending the state against the lawsuit. In March 2017, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) sued Tim Eyman for $2.1 million, alleging that Eyman profited from money donated to his initiative campaigns and violated campaign finance laws. In an email on November 21, Eyman wrote, “On one side, you have Seattle government suing the voters. And on the other side is Bob Ferguson ‘defending’ our vote. An AG who is pro-Sound Transit, anti-Eyman, and actively undermining I-976 with the Dept of Licensing. So it’s two opponents of I-976 colluding to negate the people’s vote.”
A hearing was scheduled for November 26, 2019.
Eyman has sponsored or worked on a number of ballot initiative campaigns in Washington each year since at least 1998. Of the Eyman initiatives that have been filed, 17 qualified for the ballot and 11 were approved by voters. As of 2019, six of the approved measures were entirely overturned and two others were partially invalidated by the courts.