Implementation of I-976 has been put on hold temporarily pending the outcome of the coalition lawsuit in King County Superior Court. In a decision delivered this morning, Judge Marshall Ferguson also indicated that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of the case.
The ruling details testimony about the damage that would ensue if a temporary injunction were not in place. Metro would need to reduce transit service by 110,000 service hours (at an annualized rate) in March and would not be able to restore that service until September. Metro would permanently lose $2 million in grants tied to the amount of service. The City of Seattle would lose $2.68 million in vehicle license fee just in December if I-976 took effect on December 5. Cuts to the multimodal account would follow shortly, likely including critical programs relied on by special needs transit-dependent taxpayers including one of the plaintiffs.
Meanwhile, if I-976 were later upheld, any vehicle fees and excise taxes collected could be refunded at moderate expense. But if a temporary injunction were not granted and I-976 were invalidated, the revenues would be gone forever and the harms would be permanent.
Because of the prospect of irreparable harm, the temporary injunction was generally anticipated. A temporary injunction also requires some reasonable likelihood to prevail at trial, and the language in the order is very encouraging on this point.
Though the order goes on to caution that no final conclusion has been reached, the highly misleading language in the title, excepting “voter-approved charges”, is likely to be a focus of the litigation going forward.