The Sound Transit Board discussed the impacts of the passage of Tim Eyman-sponsored Initiative 976, a measure that will cap statewide car-tab fees at $30, during its Nov. 21 meeting.

The Seattle City Attorney’s Office and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the initiative with Pacifica Law Group on Nov. 13. The law firm is representing several plaintiffs, including the Association of Washington Cities, Washington State Transit Association and Port of Seattle.

King County voters rejected the initiative by about 60 percent, but it passed statewide by nearly 53 percent.

Eyman declared during public comment Thursday that he is running for governor in response to this opposition, which he said is spearheaded by Gov. Jay Inslee and the City of Seattle.

“Seattle government filed its lawsuit in King County, which employs the judge that will decide this,” Eyman said. “He was appointed by Jay Inslee. And, who do we have defending it? Bob Ferguson, who is pro Sound Transit, anti-Tim Eyman, and actively trying to undo I-976. ‘Why vote?’ is the question I keep getting asked. We voted. You work for us.

“The reason it’s not being affected is because Seattle voted ‘no.’ Seattle decides everything. People outside of Seattle have no voice anymore. For 21 years, I’ve put initiatives on the ballot, and voters voted on them, but the people we elect refuse to listen. Therefore, I am running for governor in 2020. I am running against Jay Inslee, Seattle’s current governor.”

After saying this, Eyman’s pubic comment participation was cut short, because he violated the rules of conduct, which bar commenters from political campaigning. This action was followed by a couple supporters chanting, “Let him talk.”

Bob Ferguson, who is the Washington Attorney General, has declined to hire outside counsel to defend I-976, citing it as his office's responsibility. Ferguson's office on Friday filed its opposition to Seattle and King County's motion for an injunction to stop the initiative from taking effect pending litigation. Both sides will make their arguments in King County Superior Court on Tuesday, Nov. 26.

Some public commenters spoke in opposition of the measure during the Nov. 21 Sound Transit Board meeting.

Jan Jarvis said that she votes for any tax that will improve society, saying, “I-976 is just an incredibly destructive, stupid Idea.”

Carol Butterfield voiced her dismay at the passage of the initiative.

“I must tell you that I was shocked by the passage of I-976, more so because I was out of the state when I heard,” she said. “I-976’s passage directly contradicts past citizen votes on Sound Transit and the course that (Sound Transit) has charted for our transportation, economic, cultural and environmental future.”

She said the initiative used “deliberately misleading language” and has “questionable constitutionality.”

Many of the people in support for Eyman’s initiative were disruptive to the meeting and one person was asked to leave.

The initiative will affect Sound Transit’s plans to expand the region’s light rail service by eliminating a 1996 voter-approved 0.3 percent tax on vehicle sales, and the bump from 0.3 to 1.1 percent, as voted for in 2016. The 2016 increase was supposed to support transit improvements and the expansion of light rail service to places like West Seattle and Ballard, extensions that will take place in 2030 and 2035, respectively.

Sound Transit general counsel Desmond Brown said I-976 would repeal the statutory authority of the agency in regard to motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) and rental car tax. The repeal of these taxes will take effect after Sound Transit defeases bonds, or refinances them. It also has a provision that would reduce MVET authority from 0.8 percent to 0.2 percent if taxes are not repealed by April 1, 2020.

“However, this provision will not apply to Sound Transit, because our outstanding bond contracts require that the tax rate remain at .8 and the rental tax remain to .8 as well until the bonds are retired [in 2028],” Brown said.

He said the board needs to wait for the outcomes of the litigation against I-976.

Sound Transit chief finanicial officer Tracy Butler presented the financial impacts and potential programmatic impacts that defeasing the bonds would have, should the injunction not be granted, and the initiative be upheld by the courts.

“There will be a loss of $7.2 billion of rental car tax revenue through 2041, which is the last year of the voter-approved program,” she said.

There will be $521 million of direct cost to Sound Transit, and $2.6 billion in new debt in order to retire the $2.3 billion in outstanding debt.

“That means that a portion of the revenue that the voters have approved to pay for the programs and the service will be redirected to pay for the defeasance of the bonds and the higher interest costs, and some other costs associated with these transactions,” Butler said.

This will result in cancelling and delaying projects, as well as service reductions, she said.

Delaying projects by five years would result in $6 billion in added capital costs from inflation, $16 billion in additional interest through 2061, and a tax rollback delayed by about 12 years.

“As a result, $25 billion of additional taxes will be collected from the taxpayers to pay for the same program, but delayed for five years,” Butler said.