Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Another defeat for Tim Eyman, another victory for Sound Transit and taxpayers

As already noted in an earlier post, the Washington State Supreme Court today sealed the deal on 2006, making it quite possibly Tim Eyman's worst year - ever.

The court ruled that Sound Transit was and is within its rights to continue collecting a local motor vehicle excise tax (MVET, or car tabs) despite the passage of Eyman's Initiative 776 in 2002.

Sound Transit won, we won, and taxpayers won (the taxpayers inside the boundary of Sound Transit's district rejected Initiative 776 in 2002).

Initiative 776 was the first initiative that NPI's Permanent Defense ever opposed. And while it narrowly passed at the ballot box, we have classified it as a failure because it did not achieve its main intent (according to Eyman) - ending Sound Transit's Link light rail project. Today's court ruling only strengthens that classification.

Light rail is now under construction and Tim Eyman is mired in a deep slump. So far this year, Tim has been beset with the following setbacks:
  • Failed to qualify Referendum 65 in June
  • Saw I-747 ruled unconstitutional in June
  • Failed to qualify Initiative 917 in September
  • Opposed Mayor Nickels' Seattle roads package, but it passed anyway
  • Lost the court battle against Sound Transit over collection of the MVET
That comes on top of an earlier string of defeats from immediate years past, including the failure of I-912 (which Eyman strongly backed publicly but otherwise didn't have a hand in) the failure of I-892, I-864, I-807, and I-267.

Justice Madsen, who wrote the 8-1 majority opinion, stated in part:
"The crux of (tax opponents') argument appears to be that the people, through initiative, have the right to repeal taxes, pledged as security for capital intensive projects such as highways and bridges, when they no longer want to pay such taxes."

"However, the contract clause of our state constitution guarantees that 'No law impairing the obligations of contracts shall ever be passed'."
Three years ago, in a split decision, the court upheld the constitutionality of the initiative as a whole but did not settle this dispute over Sound Transit's collection of its MVET. That went back to the lower courts for resolution, but eventually got appealed to the state Supreme Court again.

But now it has been decided. Sound Transit and its revenue sources are safe.

Sound Transit has argued all along, even before passage of I-776 (and we have agreed), that it would be able to continue collecting its MVET, because it had been pledged to pay off bonds. The Constitution, as Justice Madsen and her colleagues noted, is quite clear on that point.

The entire text of the ruling is available from Permanent Defense.

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