Revenue that would be lost if Tim Eyman’s I‑976 is ultimately implemented will be placed in an escrow account for the duration of the legal challenge against the initiative, Governor Jay Inslee announced today in a statement responding to Judge Marshall Ferguson’s decision to bar I‑976 from taking effect.
“We are taking action today in response to the court order and in consideration of the vote on the initiative,” Inslee said in a news release sent to NPI.
“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,” the Governor added.
The Department of Licensing previously released a fact sheet detailing I‑976 impacts, which can be viewed below. The Department has been expressly ordered by Judge Ferguson to continue collecting revenue sources that I‑976 repeals as though the initiative does not exist, until further notice.
DOL has updated its website to inform Washingtonians of this.
Voters approved Initiative 976 in the election on November 5, 2019. A King County Superior Court judge has since issued an injunction. This means we will continue to collect all current vehicle fees and taxes until the court directs otherwise.
Learn more from our I‑976 Fact Sheet. To find out what your specific fees will be, visit a vehicle licensing office location.
The original fact sheet, which has since been replaced, is below.Department of Licensing I‑976 fact sheet
While the state plans to hold the vehicle fee revenue in an escrow account, local governments like the City of Seattle and King County are under no such obligation. They may continue to invest their vehicle fee revenue in transportation improvements or services, with the understanding that if the plaintiffs in the I‑976 legal challenge are ultimately unsuccessful, refunds will have to be issued.
WSDOT’s list of projects that are being paused is below. It’s a fairly lengthy list.List of projects and services I‑976 is delaying
Prior to the election, our team at NPI created an Initiative 976 Impact Map which documented projects like these that could be negatively affected by I‑976. If you have not seen the map, or would like to review it again, here it is:Initiative 976 Impact Map
The Initiative 976 ballot title said nothing about any fiscal impacts, project delays, or service reductions. Instead, it falsely asked voters if they wanted thirty dollar car tabs (instead of $43.25 car tabs, the lowest anyone would actually pay under I‑976) and it falsely represented that “voter approved charges” would be exempted from the fake thirty dollar limitation when in fact that is not the case.
NPI considers the I‑976 ballot title a blazing dumpster fire. Judge Marshall Ferguson also has a problem with it. He cited the defects with the ballot title as the impetus for his decision to grant today’s injunction against the initiative.
While “thirty dollar car tabs” was Eyman’s campaign slogan, his real objective with I‑976 is to devastate funding for multimodal transportation infrastructure… railways, bus routes, sidewalks, bike paths, transit access ramps, and so on. Eyman is a diehard “highway warrior” who believes that the only mode of ground transportation that tax dollars should support is the automobile, period.
If I‑976 is struck down as unconstitutional, Eyman will have failed to defund a significant percentage of Washington’s multimodal transportation infrastructure, but that does not mean that Washington’s future freedom of mobility will be assured. The onus is now on the Legislature to figure out how to fund the projects and services that are needed while addressing voter angst about vehicle fees.