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Washington state faces lawsuit over 2022 transportation revenue bill

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(The Center Square) – A private citizen and Harbor Freight have filed a lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court against a state transportation revenue bill passed last year that they argue violates the state constitution’s single-subject requirement. Among its many provisions is an increase to fuel taxes and driver’s license fees.

Under Article II, section 19 of the Washington State Constitution, no bill “shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.”

The plaintiffs, represented by the Citizen Action Defense Fund (CADF) and through the independent counsel of law firm Powell Lane, claim that SB 5974 violates that provision.

The bill’s title is “Transportation Resources—Various Provisions” and contains the following provisions:

Created the Climate Active Transportation Account (CATA) and the Climate Transit Programs Account (CTPA).Increased the aircraft fuel tax from $0.11 per gallon to $0.18 per gallon.Increased the original plate fee from $10 to $50 and the replacement plate fee from $10 to $30.Increased the enhanced driver’s license or enhanced ID card from $24 to $42 for a six-year license and from $32 to $56 for an eight-year license.

In their motion for summary judgment, the plaintiffs wrote that the law “violates the single-subject rule and is unconstitutional on its face. ESSB 5974 has a general title: ‘An Act relating to transportation resources.’ But ESSB 5974 contains multiple subjects in violation of Article II, Section 19 of the Washington Constitution.

“The Act purports to increase multiple forms of taxes and fees to fund various transportation projects and initiatives, while at the same time authorizing the Department of Ecology to impose carbon fuel standards and prohibiting gas-powered vehicles in Washington State by 2030,” the motion states further. “The Act’s multiple subjects are also neither related nor necessary to implement each other. Addressing safety issues related to automated traffic safety cameras and deaths on two-lane rural roadways are not rationally related or germane to the various tax and fee increases imposed by the Act to support climate transportation initiatives.”

In a press release statement, CADF Executive Director Jackson Maynard wrote that “because of the unconstitutional word games played by the legislature in the transportation package, Washington state drivers are paying the highest gas prices in the nation. This is outrageous and is hurting people as they struggle with soaring inflation and a deteriorating economy. Hopefully the court will strike down this law and provide much needed relief for our citizens.”

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