O’Ban: Supreme Court decision underscores importance of enacting I-976

OLYMPIA…Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County, issued the following statement in response to the ruling handed down today by the Washington State Supreme Court in Black v. Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority.


In a 7-2 decision, the court held that the 2015 legislation authorizing Sound Transit’s light rail project known as ST3 does not violate the amendment-by-reference rule of the Washington State Constitution. O’Ban, who has been fighting against the unfair car-tab fees levied against taxpayers, and Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, submitted an amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief in the class-action lawsuit.


The brief added to the information that was considered by the Court in the case, which contended that Sound Transit has been unconstitutionally overcharging taxpayers in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties since the passage of ST3 in 2016.


“The high court’s decision today is disappointing. But most importantly, I-976 ($30 car tabs) superseded the Sound Transit MVET and the unfair schedule, and ST3.


“This decision also underscores the importance of the Legislature, in session right now, to pass my bill to enact $30 car tabs and not leave the matter to the courts.  The Legislature has the power to give taxpayers the relief they demanded by passing I-976. It can pass my bills that enact I-976, and allow Pierce County to exit from the ST3 project. That would go a long way to earning back that public trust.”


O’Ban and Padden led a 2017 Senate investigation into Sound Transit and how it acquired its $54-billion taxing authority. As a result of the investigation, O’Ban has repeatedly sponsored legislation to restructure the valuation system for car-tab fees and to hold Sound Transit accountable for the inflated fees that are based on Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price of a vehicles and not actual cash value.


The brief argued that the statute authorizing Sound Transit to seek additional motor-vehicle excise taxes violated Article II, section 37 of the state Constitution. It also notes that Sound Transit could come back to the Legislature with a lawful and fairer approach to determining vehicle values and tab fees.