Governor Inslee delivers the State of the State address
Governor Inslee delivers the State of the State address

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.

For more details on Fer­gu­son’s rul­ing, see this post.

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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