Sound Transit challenges I-776 to defend constituents' right of local control;
The Sound Transit Board decided today to join the constitutional challenge by Pierce and King Counties against Initiative 776. The Board, in its decision, noted the importance of protecting the principle of local control and meeting its obligation to the majority of Sound Transit District residents who voted against the measure.
Shortly after the vote Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Ron Sims announced several other groups and jurisdictions were also joining the legal action, including:
- The Sierra Club
- 1000 Friends of Washington
- King County Labor Council
- City of Kenmore
- Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 587
- Aerospace Machinists Union
"People in our region have a right to invest in the future of their communities, and this right can not be taken away by a measure that is unfair and violates our state's constitution," said Sims. "We have an obligation as locally elected officials to stand up for the people of this region and their right to invest in transportation solutions they desperately need."
"The people who created Sound Transit voted against I-776," added Sims, "and they are the ones sitting in traffic."
"This initiative is so clearly unconstitutional," said Sound Transit Vice Chair and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. "The ‘one subject rule' was created to prevent just such initiatives; it protects voters from having to vote against one thing in order to gain something else. We are confident the courts will agree."
The Puget Sound Region already boasts the third-worst traffic congestion of major metropolitan areas in the nation, and our population is expected to grow by 1.5 million in the next 20 years," said Sound Transit Boardmember and Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel. "We can't allow our quality of life and economy to be undermined by a flagrantly unconstitutional measure."
The Board also noted the constitutional obligation it has to its bondholders. Initiative 776 would remove the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax pledged, in part, to pay off $350 million worth of bonds. The initiative would also substantially increase finance costs to taxpayers for future bonds.
In all, 56.6 percent of voters in the Sound Transit District rejected I-776, virtually the same percentage of voters who voted to form Sound Transit in 1996. Nearly 71 percent of the voters in Seattle and North King County - the people who are paying for the majority of Sound Transit's light rail project -- voted against I-776.
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Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.