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Judge rejects most of challenge to Tim Eyman’s $30 car tab measure

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SEATTLE -- A King County Superior Court judge on Wednesday rejected most of a legal challenge to Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976, a measure that would steeply discount the price of car registrations while gutting transportation budgets across the state.

Judge Marshall Ferguson said King County and a coalition of Washington cities had failed to carry the heavy burden of demonstrating that the $30 car tab measure was unconstitutional on most of their claims. Those claims included that the description of the initiative on the ballot was misleading and that the measure violated the Washington Constitution’s rule that initiatives be limited to one subject.

However, the judge declined to rule yet on two other issues: whether the initiative unlawfully impairs the contracting authority of the city of Burien, and on whether a requirement that car valuations be based on Kelley Blue Book values illegally favors a private company.

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I-976 will remain blocked from taking effect while the sides gather information and make arguments to the court about those issues, Ferguson said. The case is expected to wind up before the state Supreme Court.

The judge blocked the measure in late November, saying he was concerned that the initiative’s ballot title was misleading because it said the measure would “limit annual motor-vehicle-license fees to $30, except voter-approved charges.”

Officials say the measure would gut transportation budgets.

“We’re disappointed in the judge’s decision,” said Dan Nolte, a spokesman for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office. “We’re assessing the order and evaluating options for next steps.”

The initiative’s sponsor, Eyman, is a longtime antitax initiative promoter who is running for governor. His $30 car tab initiative first passed 20 years ago. It was struck down in court before being enacted by lawmakers. The fees have crept up as lawmakers allowed them and voters in some places approved them.

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