Vehicle tab funds will be held in a separate account by the state until courts determine whether Initiative 976 will be upheld, Gov. Jay Inslee said on Wednesday.
King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday delaying the implementation of I-976.
“We are taking action today in response to the court order and in consideration of the vote on the initiative,” Inslee said in a statement. “The state will take a fiscally prudent approach by effectively continuing to act as if the initiative is still in place from a state spending perspective.
“Accordingly, state funds from car tabs will be held separately and set aside to function as an escrow account. We will effectively go forward as if the initiative is still in place and these funds will be available for refunds as determined by any further court order. The Department of Licensing will continue to collect car tab fees unless further instructed by the court.
“In addition, today’s court injunction does not change our plans to pause a number of projects across the state as detailed by the Department of Transportation yesterday. We are doing so in order to maintain these funds to be available for further determination by the Legislature. This plan is intended to allow us to preserve essential services.
“I know that Washingtonians want funding preserved for a safe, reliable transportation system which includes provisions for people with disabilities, state troopers on the road, and bus and ferry services.
“I will work collaboratively with the Legislature on a plan to move forward during this period of uncertainty.”
Voters approved I-976 on Nov. 5 to lower vehicle tab fees to $30 per year. The measure was scheduled to go into effect Dec. 5. Sound Transit, the state and numerous cities use car tab fees to help pay for project. Sound Transit officials already have said they plan to keep collecting the fee on projects already approved.
King County, Seattle and several other groups filed a lawsuit after the initiative passed to overturn the measure because it violates the state Constitution. The groups also filed for the temporary injunction to let the outcome be determined in the courts.