December 07, 2006
Absence of Justice

The statist Alexander Court again upheld executive preference to ignore the will of the voters -- this time allowing Sound Transit to continue collecting its motor vehicle tax, despite I-776.

The majority ruling here. Justice Sanders' dissent here.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at December 07, 2006 09:38 AM | Email This
Comments
1. Something to remember the next time Sound Transit asks for money.

Posted by: South County on December 7, 2006 09:52 AM
2. I could agree with the court re: The bond contract if the tab fee was ST's only revenue source. Since it isn't, this is just another mind boggling decision by the state high court.

Posted by: Steve (was Steve_Dog) on December 7, 2006 09:54 AM
3. We have the Supreme Court we deserve. The people elected these morons, and we will continue to elect them in the future, since reality and the HA ilk are rarely in the same universe at the same time.

Frankly, it's starting to look like it's time to get the hell out of Dodge.

Posted by: Hinton on December 7, 2006 10:20 AM
4. Under this twisted logic the Super Majority Legislature could sell bonds to cover all the out year budgets in rolling bonds with only 5% of them expiring each year and then say they have pledged the new 12% sales tax to cover the bonds. My Chains are a rattlin'.

Tim then proposes the Repeal the Insanity let us Breath Initiative and somehow King County can't muster enough absentee ballots from the laser printer with the help of all the sissy waisted loyiers in Seattle to overcome the Eastern Washington Vote and 10 days later it is thrown out!! This is madness...the bond holders and Sound Transit assumed the risk!! What now I am enslaved for 23 more years no chance to repeal this???? What kind of UNACCOUNTABLE MESS IS THIS. Making up this out of whole cloth!! Every agency can now go hog wild obligating its serfs with bonds in any amount that can get away with. Slick sliding scales etc could be used! Literally get those bonds sold and were stuck for whatever amount!! Can you see the trustee sales of thousands of homes taken to cover the tax bill?

Oh you loiyers so smart right so smart...careful careful.

Posted by: Col. Hogan on December 7, 2006 12:09 PM
5. what's next? reparations? carbon taxes? maybe it's ok---"for the children"

i see a growing WA Bastille Day here. the powdered wigs are (again) detached from the people & sensibility. "Those who forget history......"

Posted by: jimmie-howya-doin on December 7, 2006 12:14 PM
6. Remember that I-776 FAILED in the ST taxing zone. The voters in one jurisdiction should not have their will undone by the actions of those with no stake in the outcome. Like it or not ST was approved by the voters and still enjoys solid support in most polls. Next year we will get the chance to expand on it. Feel free to vote no. However it is undemocratic to suggest that eastern Washington should be able to tell us we cannot tax ourselves for transportation.

And yes Hogan, you are stuck with it. Remember it was approved by the people affected. In fact this is what all the Eymanites clamor for. People voting on tax increase. They did, the bonds were issued, construction has began, and it needs to finish. Don't like it, then don't vote for the expansion in 07. My hunch is that it will pass handily without you.

For all conservatives talk about local decision making, they sure don't like it want it doesn't go the way they want it to.

Posted by: Giffy on December 7, 2006 12:43 PM
7. This one could've been predicted a mile away. SEIU paid hundreds of thousands this past election cycle to ensconce a solid statist majority on the Say WA? Supreme Court. The LAST thing the judges would do is bite the hand that keeps their butts on that bench. More taxes means bigger SEIU dues revenues means a statist majority forever more on that court.

Just goes to show -- it doesn't matter what the people vote for, that court will do what the governments want if it will make the SEIU richer.

Posted by: Bourne on December 7, 2006 01:10 PM
8.
Today was "pay back our patrons" day at the Temple of Justice. It isn't just money from the statist organizations that buys outcomes from the Supreme Court. The Indians contributed close to a quarter million dollars this year to get the three incumbents re-elected. That investment paid off for them too. They got an opinion today protecting them from lawsuits under principles of tribal sovereign immunity.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003466224_webtribes07.html

Backed by PAC? If not, no justice for you! The laws are on the books for those who contribute, and contribute big.

Posted by: Wishkah on December 7, 2006 01:25 PM
9. Giffy - You omitted a few key facts.

Per the majority decision:
"FACTS

In November 1996, 56.6 percent of voters in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties authorized Sound Transit to collect taxes in the three county Sound Transit district (a subset of the counties) to construct a comprehensive, multi-billion dollar regional transportation system.1"

"1 The legislature recognized that "existing transportation facilities in the central Puget
Sound area are inadequate to address mobility needs of the area" and after significant
study, found that a single agency would be more effective than "several local jurisdictions
working collectively at planning, developing, operating, and funding a high capacity
transportation system." RCW 81.112.010. Accordingly, the legislature declared that it is
the "policy of the state of Washington to empower counties in the state's most populous
region to create a local agency for planning and implementing a high capacity
transportation system within that region." Id. Sound Transit is the local agency created
by the counties for planning and implementing the transportation system."

"As a result of the 1996 election, Sound Transit was authorized to collect a 0.3 percent motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) and a 0.4 percent sales and use tax (sales tax) to finance construction and operation of the transit system.2"

"2 The voters also authorized Sound Transit to impose a 0.8 percent rental car tax. Along
with the MVET and the sales tax, the three are referred to as the local option taxes."


The ST scheme was implemented by action of the state legislature, which made possible the creation of the agency.

The agency's funding is collected using state taxing authority and tax-collection agencies.

The involvement of the state legislature and state agencies means that ALL state voters have a say about ST.

If the ST founders didn't want to answer to the rest of the state, they should have gone it alone.

Posted by: ewaggin on December 7, 2006 01:33 PM
10. Giffy:

Sound Transit allows absolutely zero "local control" over who sits on its board (those are appointees of the County Executives) or whether it can be shut down for failing to comply with what the voters approved in 1996. It is a profoundly un-democratic organization.

Posted by: Larry Holder on December 7, 2006 02:07 PM
11. ewaggin, thats some rather absurd logic. ST was not created by the State, instead the state empowered the three counties to create a special district. All local governments are subordinate to and were empowered to be created by the State. Cities, Counties, and special districts included. Almost all taxes including local are collected by the state. There is no other way to do it. The whole idea is to give local areas control and discretion over certain areas, like transportation. Something I thought conservatives were for.

Larry, In case you forgot the County executives are elected. Additionally all but one of the board members serve in elected office and by law must be representative of their respective counties. If ST was really the massive unpopular boondoggle you all think it is then you could elect County execs who would appoint people who would shut it down.

Posted by: Giffy on December 7, 2006 02:26 PM
12. From: Tim Eyman, co-sponsor of 2007's Taxpayer Protection Initiative

As pointed out by Justice Sanders in his dissent, until 2028, "Sound Transit expects to collect about $6.3 billion in sales and use tax plus $1.8 billion in MVET." Today's ruling, says Sanders, will "enable Sound Transit to benefit from the collection of $1.8 billion in illegal taxes." That huge $1.8 billion collection of voter-repealed revenue is intended to fulfill a small $350 million bond obligation. So, Sound Transit will collect nearly $1.5 billion dollars more than it needs from a tax the voters explicitly repealed.

The voters will get the opportunity to hold Sound Transit accountable in 2007 -- next year Sound Transit will be asking voters for billions of additional dollars on top of their existing $8.1 billion ($6.7 billion in sales taxes and $1.8 billion in illegal vehicle taxes). Will voters validate and reward Sound Transit and give more money for more of the same? That's up to them. But we're hopeful they'll consider Sound Transit's bulging multi-billion dollar bank account before they give them more. We also hope that voters will take a good, long look at State Auditor Brian Sonntag's upcoming performance audit of Sound Transit which compares their current results with their 1996 promises. His audit will be released by the summer of 2007.

In 1998, when we first got on this roller coaster for taxpayer protection, vehicle owners were paying motor vehicle taxes of 2.5% of vehicle value (2.2% state MVET and 0.3% Sound Transit MVET) plus a $15 vehicle fee.

As a result of supporters and the voters and the Legislature, in 36 of 39 counties, citizens now have $30 vehicle tabs plus recently imposed vehicle weight fees -- usually $10 or $20 (no 2.2% MVET or $15 vehicle fee).

In the Puget Sound (most areas of Snohomish, Pierce and King counties), citizens now have $30 vehicle tabs plus Sound Transit's 0.3% MVET and recently imposed vehicle weight fees -- usually $10 or $20 (no 2.2% MVET or $15 vehicle fee).

Give us points for persistence.

Regards, Tim Eyman, co-sponsor of 2007's Taxpayer Protection Initiative, insignia@greekwatch.com

Posted by: Tim Eyman on December 7, 2006 03:15 PM
13. From: Tim Eyman

The Associated Press has corrected its previous stories to make clear that Justice Richard Sanders' estimate of $1.8 billion in car-tab taxes collected by Sound Transit through 2028 was wrong.

It turns out that because of this court ruling, Sound Transit will collect $2.7 billion from this voter-repealed tax.

So that huge $2.7 billion collection of voter-repealed revenue is intended to fulfill a small $350 million bond obligation. So, Sound Transit will collect nearly $2 billion -- THAT'S $2 BILLION -- more than it needs from a tax the voters explicitly repealed.

Totally outrageous.


Posted by: Tim Eyman on December 7, 2006 07:08 PM
14. The justices have forgotten from where all power arises. Not surprising, either.

Posted by: Barcroft on December 7, 2006 08:33 PM
15. We need to remember who these justices are when they come up for election. If we could only find some good people to go against them.
Memo to Governor send Remedial Math tutors to those same Justices so they can get tutored on The difference between millions and billions.

Posted by: David Anfinrud on December 7, 2006 08:40 PM
16. Nice to have Justice Sanders rely upon the Rolling Stones for legal reasoning...

That- and that the other eight justices including such proponents of big government as Jim Johnson joined the majority- should indicate just how weak Eyman's position is.

Posted by: Captain Wierd on December 7, 2006 09:17 PM
17. I think the problem here is with the initiative process, not the supreme court. An initiative comes up to improve transportation and we want that, so it is approved. Another initiative to lower taxes, and we want that too, so it is also approved. Similar to a few years ago when an initiative passed to mandate smaller class sizes in schools passed and if I remember right, another item passed to lower taxes. Two points here, if we vote for an expansion of services (ie extra expense) we shouldn't then be able to cut the funding in the middle of the project (which is why I agree with the supreme court ruling). At the same time, if we vote for increased services (my example this time is the manditory smaller class sizes) the initiative needs to include how it will be funded.

Posted by: Scott on December 7, 2006 10:44 PM
18. "No . . . law impairing the obligations of contracts shall ever be passed." -Wash Const. art. I, ยง 23.

"The intervenors ask this court to ignore the contract clause and long-standing case law in order to repeal MVET taxes securing Sound Transit bonds.

"Unfortunately, the intervenors point to no authority for their contentions which are contrary to well-settled law and the plain language of our constitution. Indeed, many of these same claims were made and rejected nearly 150 years ago, allowing international bond markets to fund the United States expansion west, eventually into Washington. As noted by Sir Henry Sumner Maine, "I have seen the rule which denies to the several States the power to make any laws impairing the obligation of contracts criticised as if it were a mere politico-economical flourish; but in point of fact there is no more important provision in the whole Constitution.

"'. . . [I]t is this prohibition which has in reality secured full play to the economical forces by which the achievement of cultivating the soil of the North American Continent has been performed.' Sir Henry Sumner Maine, Popular Government 242-43 (Liberty Classics 1976) (1885).

"The constitutional impairment is clear in this case. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court."

-The Opinion of 8 of the 9 justices on our Supreme Court.

Don't like it? Move to another state.

Posted by: Sorry Charlie on December 7, 2006 11:16 PM
19. Sorry Charlie -

Sorry, so sorry, but you missed the point.

As the one judge who was capable of doing the arithmetic pointed out, discontinuance of the illegal MVET does not in any way impair the obligations of ST to its bondholders.

The lawful sales and use taxes will provide $6.3 billion in revenue over the life of the bonds, against a total obligation of $738 million.

Even spenders as profligate as the miscreants (mis)managing ST should be able to scrape by on the remaining $5.5 billion. Of course, that might mean pissing away a couple of billion less dollars on worthless studies and crony consultants than they otherwise would have.

So, sorry Charlie, but your statements are wrong, and sorry.

Posted by: ewaggin on December 8, 2006 01:19 AM
20. Giffy -

Thanks for agreeing with me that the creation of ST was dependent on action by the state legislature. Absent such action, ST would not have come into existence.

And you make an excellent point, that all local governments are subordinate to the state government.

You also note that all taxes are collected by the state, and that there is no other way to do it. So we are in agreement on this point as well, that ST's continued existence depends on action by the state.

So, having agreed that ST's creation and its continued existence are dependent on, and subordinate to, the State, the only absurdity I can see is the claim that the State has no say about ST.

Posted by: ewaggin on December 8, 2006 02:27 AM
21. Giffy, that was quite a web of deceit you wove in your last disclosure.

No one on ST is elected to the ST Board. It is made of elected officials, yes, but they are elected officials who were voted in because of their stands on police, fire, tax and other city or county services, not Sound Transit. If you vote one out of office, and I intend to see that it happens, you just get another firebrand appointed.

If you recall, METRO got dismantled for the same reasons we are talking about.

That was quite an 'ivory tower web', I have to admit.

Posted by: swatter on December 8, 2006 07:33 AM
22. Eyman is a knob who is looking out for his political future. He could give a rip about the interests of anyone else. Plus, he doesn't know how to read court opinions.

ewaggin - don't worry about the comments in the dissent, they do not form any part of the controlling law. Justice Sanders is totally goofing on ST there. ST has no right to collect anywhere near that much tax.

Posted by: Rudy Lavore on December 8, 2006 11:56 AM
23. Of course the justices ignore the will of the people as expressed by initiative. Of the three justices challenged for re-election, each won by about a 60-40 margin.
We are a state of schizos.

Posted by: Roger Knight on December 8, 2006 08:43 PM
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