Let the tax troll, Tim Eyman, toil over this injunction
Let the tax troll, Tim Eyman, toil over this injunction Lester Black

Whew, we can take a second and breathe easy—Tim Eyman's Initiative 976, which would slash car-tab fees down to $30 and kneecap transit projects in the process, was just put on hold by a King County Superior Court judge.

Eyman's initiative was approved statewide by voters during the November general election. Most of the measure was expected to go into effect on Dec. 5. However, Seattle, King County, the Garfield County Transportation Authority, and other groups have filed suits against the measure. While the case is being heard, the groups asked in court on Tuesday that the judge grant a preliminary injunction. That would pause the nearly $4 billion in cuts to state and local transit agencies I-976 is expected to cause over six years, as well as the impact to transit projects statewide.

Today, King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson granted the preliminary injunction.

Car-tab taxes will be collected as usual while the case against I-976 is heard. Government agencies that rely on those taxes will get the money collected from them.

In order to win this injunction, groups had to convince Judge Ferguson that the measure would cause significant damage and that their lawsuit has a good chance at winning.

The case against I-976 argues that many parts of the measure are unconstitutional.

A major argument is that it violates the state’s “single subject” rule. In Washington, ballot measures must only address one topic and that must be fully and completely explained within the description of the measure. Eyman's initiative only mentioned limiting vehicle licensing fees at $30. In reality, as the lawsuit against it points out, the measure took on multiple subjects such as: refinancing existing transit bonds, revoking the taxing authority of transit agencies, and revoking a specific vehicle sales tax, which is legally separate from a licensing fee.

Additionally, according to the suit, I-976 allows a statewide vote to preempt local elections results and illegally cancels contracts that the state has already signed.

With the injunction granted, opponents of I-976 are celebrating.

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes has issued a statement saying that Seattleites can "take a sigh of relief." He also got into the Thanksgiving spirit.

“I’m thankful that Judge Ferguson made the prudent decision today," Holmes said. "It’s frustrating that Washingtonians were asked to vote on such a misleading measure. Looking ahead, if our courts ultimately strike down the initiative, I hope we can all agree it’s a good thing that unconstitutional measures not be enacted.”

A statement from Mayor Jenny Durkan acknowledged the injunction as "good news for transit, safety, and equity in Seattle."

"We are pleased that the court recognized the severe and irreparable harm to our residents that would have occurred without this injunction," Durkan said.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is defending the measure in court (much to Eyman's chagrin; Eyman is also currently being sued by Ferguson for violating campaign finance laws and allegedly profiting from money donated to his initiative campaigns). Bob Ferguson issued a statement saying that "this is not the final judgment and this case is far from over."

The case, Ferguson wrote, will likely end up before the State Supreme Court. The defense is working to figure out its next steps. Ferguson also acknowledged Tim Eyman's behavior during this process. During court on Tuesday, Eyman, who is officially running for governor in 2020, yelled at the judge in the middle of the proceedings. He also accused the Attorney General's office of sabotaging the case.

"Tim Eyman's outburst in court yesterday was wildly inappropriate," Ferguson wrote, "and it hurt our chances of successfully defending the people's initiative."

Eyman sent a furious statement.

"What we're watching is the destruction of democracy, people's faith in government, and belief that our votes count," Eyman said. "It's a crisis that demands leadership."

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Anyway, I-976 is stalled for the time being. Everything, for now, is okay. Eat your turkey in peace.

UPDATE: 4:21 P.M.

Ferguson released a statement of his office's intent to challenge the injunction by going directly to the State Supreme Court. The plan is to address the injunction before Dec. 5, the date the measure was originally supposed to go into effect.