King County, Seattle, transit agencies and others join in lawsuit against I-976

A lawsuit filed by plaintiffs across Washington claims I-976 is a “poorly drafted hodge-podge that violates multiple provisions of the Constitution,” including the Single Subject Rule, according to the suit.

By violating the prohibition on single subject, the initiative improperly attempted to win support by hiding unpopular provisions among more popular ones, without clearly spelling out what some of those provisions were, according to a news release Wednesday from King County Executive Dow Constantine. In addition to being misleading, voters would no longer be able to approve local transportation-related investments as the need arises, according to the suit. The suit claims the initiative would “decimate funding particularly for local transportation and transit projects, including many that have already been approved by local voters.”

“Here in King County – where Sound Transit 3 was overwhelmingly approved and I-976 was defeated by nearly 60 percent – we follow the will of the people and the rule of law,” Constantine said in the news release. “We join with others across the state to challenge the constitutionality of I-976, even as we renew our long-standing demand that the Legislature reform the tax system and provide better funding options to local governments across the state. The only responsible choice is to push ahead, building a transportation system and economy that gives every person access to a better future.

Voters statewide approved I-976 in the Nov. 5 election. The measure will create $30 car tabs, reduce funds to some cities for roads, eliminate a portion of Sound Transit’s ability to raise funds for light rail and reduce the amount of funding the state has for infrastructure ranging from roads to ferries.

Plaintiffs include:

• Garfield County Transportation Authority, which provides transit to the smallest county in the state. With an annual budget of about $350,000, it relies heavily on state grants. If allowed to take effect, I-976 could reduce transit service in Garfield County by at least 50 percent.

• Intercity Transit provides services in Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater, Yelm and surrounding areas. I-976 would reduce funding for shuttles, vanpool services, and service for people with disabilities, among other cuts.

• King County, the state’s largest county, could lose $52 million in Regional Mobility Grant Program awards that fund RapidRide expansion and reliability improvements, $36 million for transit serving persons with disabilities, and other critical transportation funding.

• City of Seattle would lose about $35 million that funds approximately 8,000 weekly trips in addition to funding for 14,000 ORCA passes for students, low income residents and seniors. Routes funded by the Transportation Benefit District provide off-peak transit options critical to reducing congestion and increasing equitable access to transportation. Also at jeopardy is more than $8M in road maintenance, transit corridor and bike and pedestrian safety projects.

• Port of Seattle, which contends that increased regional congestion would interfere with cargo terminals, Sea-Tac Airport, industrial lands, and other facilities.

• Association of Washington Cities represents 281 cities and towns. Sixty cities (not Kent) and towns have adopted vehicle license fees, raising $58.2 million for local transportation needs. I-976 would eliminate this funding.

• Washington State Transit Association represents 31 transit system that provide 238 million passenger trips annually on buses, paratransit, vanpools, light and commuter rail. I-976 could eliminate essential funding for these services.

• Amalgamated Transit Union Legislative Council of Washington advocates on behalf of employees who operate public transportation. I-976 would likely eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars from transportation budgets, resulting in the loss of family wage jobs.

• Michael Rogers is a Lacey resident with cerebral palsy. He relies on paratransit and transit services, and faces substantial harm from I-976, which would likely eliminate funding for services upon which he relies.

The legal action, filed by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Pacifica Law Group, and Seattle City Attorney’s Office, also seeks an injunction to “prevent and permanently enjoin I-976 from taking effect or being enforced by any Washington official” to be filed separately on Nov. 14.

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