Tim Eyman’s dishonest, incredibly destructive scheme to slash billions of dollars in bipartisan, voter-approved transportation investments at the state, regional, and local levels will not go into effect on December 5th as scheduled, King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson ruled this morning.
“In balancing the equities, interests, and the relative harms to the parties and the public, the Court concludes that the harms to Plaintiffs resulting from the implementation of I‑976 outweigh the harms faced by the Defendant State of Washington and the public of implementation is stayed,” Judge Ferguson wrote.
“if the collection of vehicle license fees and taxes stops on December 5, 2019, there will be no way to retroactively collect those revenues if, at the conclusion of this case, the Court concludes that I‑976 is unconstitutional and permanently enjoins its enforcement. Conversely, refunds of fees and taxes impacted can be issued if the State ultimately prevails in this matter, albeit at some expense to the State.”
This is great news to go into the Thanksgiving holiday with… truly great news.
Ferguson’s order declares that is:
ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction is GRANTED. It is further
ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that the effective date of I‑976 is STAYED pending further order of this Court. While this stay is in effect, Defendant State of Washington, its officials, employees, agents, and all persons in active concert or participation with Defendant, are enjoined from implementing or enforcing I‑976. Defendant shall continue to collect all fees, taxes, and others charges that would be subject to or impacted by I‑976 were it not stayed, and shall distribute those funds to local municipalities and political subdivisions as appropriate pursuant to existing laws, regulations, contracts, obligations, policies, and procedures. Any municipality or political subdivision that accepts such funds while this Order is in effect, including those that are not parties to this lawsuit, do so subject to the likelihood that refunds of overpayments may be required should the State ultimately prevail in this action.
Read the full ruling:Ruling granting preliminary injunction against I‑976
The plaintiffs — Garfield County Transportation Authority, the City of Seattle, King County, the Association of Washington Cities, Washington State Transit Association, Intercity Transit, Port of Seattle, Amalgamated Transit Union Legislative Council of Washington, and Michael Rogers — are not required to provide any security as a condition of the preliminary injunction, the ruling states.
While this preliminary injunction will prevent I‑976 from being implemented in the near future, it is not the courts’ final word on I‑976. Judge Ferguson emphasized the plaintiffs must still prove that the initiative is unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt. While he has found they are likely to be able to do that, a proper judgment concerning I‑976’s constitutionality won’t come till next year.
Ferguson — who clearly possesses critical thinking and long term thinking skills, unlike some other people I could think of — also had the foresight to end his order with a plan for next steps. His ruling directs the parties to discuss scheduling matters together and to provide him, no later than noon on Thursday, December 5th, a proposed timeframe for future motions, briefing, and hearings.
That is, of course, if they can reach agreement on one.
It didn’t take long for reaction to Judge Ferguson’s decision to begin pouring in.
“This is good news for transit, safety, and equity in Seattle,” said Emerald City Mayor Jenny Durkan. “The Court recognized the severe and irreparable harm to our residents that would have occurred without this injunction. The City of Seattle
will continue to fight this unconstitutional initiative.”
“We believe the court is correct in recognizing that I‑976 is likely unconstitutional and ruling that the initiative would cause irreparable harm,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine in a statement released by his office.
“The City of Seattle has committed that it will not cut Metro service hours funded by the voter-approved Seattle Transportation Benefit District, so that residents can continue to depend on fast, reliable transit.”
“Despite today’s ruling, Metro continues to face the prospect of reduced state and regional funding for buses, RapidRide, vanpool and other services, including Access paratransit, a lifeline for residents with disabilities.
“We will continue to fight to ensure this region – where I‑976 was defeated by a nearly twenty-point margin – will face as few service disruptions as possible.”
“It is critical that the Legislature act to provide better, more popular revenue alternatives to the current vehicle fees, and maintain the state’s commitment to fund its share of transportation projects until the Supreme Court has rendered a final decision on the constitutionality of I‑976.”
“This is not a final judgment, and this case is far from over,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a statement issued after a review of the ruling.
“We will continue working to defend the will of the voters,” Ferguson added.
“This case will ultimately wind up before the State Supreme Court. We are working now to determine our immediate next steps. As my solicitor general, Noah Purcell, said yesterday, Tim Eyman’s outburst in court was wildly inappropriate, and it hurt our chances of successfully defending the people’s initiative.”
Meanwhile, of course, Seattle and King County and lawyers for Intercity Transit will continue working to defend the will of *their* voters. I‑976 failed overwhelmingly in King County. It also failed in five other counties, including Thurston County, home to Intercity Transit, one of the other plaintiffs in the case.
No county voted more strongly against I‑976 than San Juan County, where 71% of voters emphatically rejected the measure. Officials there are eager to support the lawsuit, as they should be. On November 18th, the San Juan County Commission met and authorized County Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord to file an amicus brief in the Garfield County case supporting the plaintiffs.