Lawsuit over car tabs doesn't go well for Sound Transit at WA Supreme Court

Sound Transit platform crowd KOMO25.jpg
KVI's John Carlson reviews the Supreme Court of Washington oral arguments hearing involving a lawsuit against Sound Transit over how clearly they calculated car tab taxes to pay for the voter approved $54 billion Sound Transit 3 phase. (photo: KOMO News)

Sound Transit, the taxpayer funded mass transit agency spanning parts of three counties in Puget Sound, was forced into an embarrassing admission in front of the Supreme Court of Washington (SCOW) as part of a lawsuit against the agency over the calculation for car tab taxes to pay for light rail expansion known as ST3.

According to transportation policy analyst, Mariya Frost, who attended yesterday's SCOW oral arguments, Sound Transit confirmed they were using a version of the repealed car depreciation (value) schedule that they were not legally authorized to use. The depreciation schedule calculates how much money in taxes car owners must pay annually to Sound Transit as part of the voter approved $54 billion tax play to extend light rail in the agency's third phase, called ST3.

KVI's John Carlson interviewed Frost today saying, "I don't know how the rest of the (news) media hasn't jumped on this because I think its incredible. But basically what general's office found out is that they were being duped by Sound Transit just as Sound Transit is being accused by their opponents (plaintiffs in the lawsuit) of duping them. "

A group of seven car owners is suing Sound Transit for using a car depreciation schedule that over-valued cars and the agency was not legally allowed to use to collect tax money. The Supreme Court of Washington will have to render a decision on the tax calculation issue.

Frost, who works for the Washington Policy Center as a transportation policy analyst, says this left Sound Transit to explain why the agency misled the court and the public.

Frost reports, Sound Transit’s lawyer responded that, “It’s not relevant to the analysisas a matter of fact, it wouldn’t have mattered what year you put into the statute.” The lawyer went on to argue that taxpayers could have just called the Department of Licensing to get the value of their car and the calculation of the 1999 schedule. Frost concludes: In other words – trust the government to tell you what you owe, rather than trying to verify it on your own as an independent citizen.

Connected to all this, Frost writes, "The state Attorney General’s office admits error and declines to participate in oral argument, one hour prior to (SCOW) hearing."

This enormous discrepancy was reported yesterday, and an hour prior to the Supreme Court hearing, the state Attorney General’s office notified the court they would not present at oral argument. They admitted that the briefs they submitted contained an “inaccurate factual statement.” Upon learning that Sound Transit was not actually using the 1996 depreciation schedule they have based their arguments on, the state immediately notified the court and chose not to participate."

To hear the full KVI interview between Carlson and Frost, click the image above.

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