Transportation funding stands. State Supreme Court finds I-976 is unconstitutional: multiple subjects, inaccurate ballot title.

The state Supreme Court today ruled that Initiative 976, the car tabs measure approved by the voters last November, violates the state constitution. The 29-page opinion signed by 8 justices concludes:

We hold that that I-976 violates article II, section 19 because it containsmultiple subjects and an inaccurate ballot title. 

In a separate concurrence (also at the link) , Justice Madsen concludes,

Though I disagree with the majority that I-976 violates the subject-in-title rule, I agree that the measure contains an impermissible separate subject and is unconstitutional for that reason. Accordingly, I concur.

A lot of legal detail in both that may interest some readers. The bottom line, though, is that a measure that substantially threatened funding for essential has been invalidated. We wrote quite a bit on I-976, for example here, here and here. At the time, we believed the legal challenges had merit. And that’s how the court saw it.

In The Seattle Times, Heidi Groover reports,

The Washington Supreme Court struck down Initiative 976 to reduce car-tab taxes, nearly a year after statewide voters approved the tax-cutting measure.

The initiative’s ballot title was “deceptive and misleading” by promising to lower car-tab taxes “except voter-approved charges” while also rolling back taxes voters had previously approved, the court found.

“The average informed lay voter” would have read that title to mean previously voter-approved taxes would remain, the justices wrote.

Eight justices signed the opinion. A ninth, Justice Barbara Madsen, agreed with the majority that the measure contained too many subjects, but disagreed that its title was misleading to the point of being unconstitutional.

The decision means state and local car-tab taxes can remain at their current levels.

Groover provides good background and some initial repossess to the ruling from public officials.