King County Superior Court rules I-776 unconstitutional
King County Superior Court Judge Mary Yu today issued a ruling that I-776 is invalid under the Washington State Constitution.
"This is a big win for the economy and quality of life for this region," said Ron Sims, Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive. "We had an obligation to stand up for the people in this region, who desperately need transportation solutions. We are grateful that Judge Yu agreed I-776 is unconstitutional."
"Initiative 776 is unconstitutional in its entirety and therefore, cannot be enforced," Judge Yu ruled Monday. "The State and its subdivisions are hereby permanently enjoined from taking any action to implement or enforce any section of Initiative 776."
Although I-776 was narrowly approved in a statewide vote, it was opposed by 56 percent of voters in the Sound Transit District. This district includes the most populated and congested areas of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties and is the only area where people are paying for Sound Transit's services and projects. In Seattle, where residents are financing the majority the Central Link light rail project, 70.1 percent of voters opposed I-776.
In joining the challenge against I-776 in December, the Sound Transit Board emphasized the principle of protecting local control. In addition to locally adopted $15 fees on vehicle renewals in four Washington counties, the initiative sought to eliminate the Sound Transit motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) that provides approximately 20 percent of Sound Transit's voter-approved local funding.
"Sound Transit is well on its way towards building a regional transportation system for today and for future generations. Much of the system is already in place, and we'll continue adding the remaining elements" Sims said. "Last week, the Bush administration gave the Central Link project its highest-possible rating and included $75 million in its proposed FY 2004 budget. When we get federal approval this summer we plan to begin building the system."
Sound Transit's investments in the region's future include:
ST Express bus service (more than 23,000 riders every weekday)
Sounder Commuter Rail service (more than 14,000 riders per week)
Link light rail (Tacoma Link starts operations this fall)
40 capital improvements including park and ride facilities, transit centers and HOV access projects.
Sound Transit's entire system will create nearly 10,000 jobs for the region. Central Link light rail alone will create about 4,200 direct and indirect jobs.
The text of the decision is available at http://www.metrokc.gov/kcsc/rulings/i776final.htm.
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Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.