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Washington Voters Reject Big Tax On Motorists For Transit
Voters in Washington state enact ballot initiative that rolls back car registration fees and ends diversion of billions for transit.

Tim Eyman and daughter Riley
An initiative lowering car registration fees, known as car tabs, to $30 won big in Washington state on Tuesday. Initiative 976 took 55 percent of the vote under the direction of political activist Tim Eyman and the Permanent Offense team.

"As for last night's election results, the voters have spoken," Eyman said in an email to supporters Wednesday. "The vote on I-976 was clearly a revote on ST3 and this time, voters knew the true cost. And now that they know the truth about how godawful expensive it is, those voters outside Seattle have a clear message: if Seattle wants a massive multi-billion-dollar boondoggle, don't force the rest of us to pay for it."

The initiative limits the yearly fee for registering a vehicle to $30, and taxes based on a vehicle's value must cite the Kelley Blue Book -- ending the practice of using an inflated valuation schedule to boost tax revenue. The measure also eliminated the ability of Sound Transit to impose taxes on drivers.

Washington motorists have been consistent in their desire not to be overcharged. In 1999, 56 percent of voters approved $30 state car tabs with Initiative 695. A special interest court challenge ultimately blocked the measure, and the registration fees slowly climbed back to their previous level. So a second referendum was passed in 2002 restoring the $30 cap. Despite this, state and local taxes and fees have gradually increased. Filing fees, weight fees and local excise taxes were imposed, taking $700 million a year from drivers, with most of the cash going to transit projects in the Puget Sound region.

Groups that depend upon the transit subsidies lashed out against the initiative, spending $4.6 million on ads attacking the initiative -- six times the amount raised by supporters. Officials in Seattle have also announced their intention to mount a court challenge to block the initiative.

"This is about a state law overwhelmingly passed by initiative by voters across the state and the government of Seattle saying to everyone else: Yes it passed, yes, voters want it, but Seattle gets to decide this," Eyman said.

Eyman noted the legal arguments against the new initiative are the same ones that were unsuccessfully used to attack the 2002 initiative. The Washington Supreme Court ultimately upheld the legitimacy of the 2002 measure.

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