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Thu Feb 13, 2020, 10:02 PM

WA Supreme Court upholds ST3 in separate car tabs lawsuit

The Washington State Supreme Court issued a ruling Thursday, upholding the constitutionality of car tabs fees levied by ST3.

The court ruled 7-2 in favor of Sound Transit, allowing the regional authority to continue using “two separate depreciation schedules” to calculate car tab rates — one from 1996, and another, more current one from 2006.

The case against Sound Transit alleged that the voter-approved ST3 transportation funding package was worded in a way that didn’t clearly detail how car tab fees would be calculated. The larger claim was that the Legislature and Sound Transit amended existing law in that bill by using an outdated vehicle valuation system. That outdated system greatly inflated vehicle values, which resulted in more costly car tabs.

That argument was further strengthened in September, when Sound Transit admitted in court that it had inadvertently used a 1998 depreciation schedule to calculate car tab taxes, instead of the 1996 schedule laid out in ST3’s stipulations.

Even so, the state Supreme Court ruled that it is “readily ascertainable” in ST3 which depreciation schedules are being used. A lower court affirmed that ruling in 2018, but admitted at the time this was likely an issue for a higher court.


This court case has nothing to do with the recent Tim Eyman initiative.

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