O’Ban and Rossi challenge constitutionality of Sound Transit car tab tax

Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, and Sen. Dino Rossi, R-Sammamish, informed Attorney General Bob Ferguson today that based on information they’ve reviewed, the current valuation Sound Transit uses to calculate car tab taxes is unconstitutional.

In a letter hand-delivered to Ferguson’s office this morning, the senators explain the act that authorized Sound Transit to use the inflated manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) schedule for calculating the ST3 car tab tax was improperly and unconstitutionally drafted.

Senate Bill 5987 served as the revenue bill for the transportation package that was passed by the Legislature in 2015. That bill purported to modify the previously existing vehicle valuation schedule. The bill refers to the general chapter of law in which the provision appears, but fails to reference the provision itself – a requirement of the Washington State Constitution.

“There is a reason these car tab taxes seem unfair—because they are,” said O’Ban, a constitutional attorney. “This is no technical error.

“The purpose of this requirement in the state’s highest law is to safeguard the rights of the people and the Legislature and prevent them from being misled and confused. The requirement for clear references and specific citation to laws being amended is essential to an honest legislative process.”

The problem is compounded by the fact that the ST3 measure called for compliance with a law that had been repealed and was not in force in 2015.

“This is going to give ST3 some problems,” said Rossi, “but I’m not here to protect government, I’m here to protect the people.”

O’Ban and Rossi have requested an informal Attorney General Opinion from Ferguson.

“One of the first questions I was asked about this was whether it would cause problems for Sound Transit,” O’Ban said. “But Sound Transit showed zero concern about charging people for car tabs on a blatantly inflated valuation schedule. The question here is about the problems Sound Transit has caused for the people, not the other way around.”

O’Ban’s bill to require elections for Sound Transit board members is in the House after clearing the Senate earlier this week. Rossi and O’Ban have sponsored and cosponsored numerous bills this year to rein in Sound Transit and fix the car-tab evaluation problem. A work session on Sound Transit bills is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday in the Senate Transportation Committee.

LETTER TO AG re ST3 constitutionality problems

RAW AUDIO of meeting with press to describe the constitutional concerns: