State Senate committee launches investigation into ST3

KENT, Wash. –  Sound Transit officials were questioned Tuesday by state lawmakers over allegations the agency duped legislators over the details of ST3.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee were investigating whether the regional transit agency mislead lawmakers and voters before they approved nearly $54 billion in new revenue, much of that in the form of higher car-tab fees.

Some state legislators called the hearings political grandstanding, but on Tuesday the state Senate Law and Justice Committee launched its own investigation.

“Whether the legislation was constitutional or not, and secondly whether the people, the legislators and the voters, were misled,” said Senator Mike Padden.

Voters approved ST3 last November, which authorized the agency to spend billions of dollars over the next 25 years to expand light rail and other projects.

But many voters felt buyer’s remorse after car tab taxes spiked, and some wonder if they were calculated using out-dated information.

“Some increases of 65 percent or more,” Padden said. “So that’s been a real shockwave.”

Tim Eyman, proponent of citizen initiatives, slammed Sound Transit while testifying before the committee claiming the agency knew it was deceiving voters.

“The fine print of Sound Transit’s bill was drafted to purposely mislead the legislature and deceive voters into approving a massive tax increase they never would have approved had the bill been drafted correctly and honestly,” he said.

But back in February, a state Public Disclosure Commission investigation determined Sound Transit never misled or attempted to mislead lawmakers about the true cost of ST3.

“The agency made every attempt to explain what we were seeking from the legislature,” said Sound Transit’s Ann McNeil.

Still, Padden worries some lawmakers were duped into a transit package that ballooned in cost.

“At least they didn’t think it was going to be, you know, more than doubled the total cost,” he said.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee plans to hold a second hearing in early October in Everett.

Sound Transit leaders rebuffed the allegations in a blog post.