One Dollar or a Billion


Greetings Friends and Neighbors,

I hope that you’ve had a great summer. Things have been quiet in Olympia, but something groundbreaking just happened. Late last week, the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Black v. Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority.

About a year ago, when it became apparent that the majority party wasn’t interested in providing tax relief from Sound Transit’s deceptive car-tab taxes, I knew we had to get creative. Since I’m personally outside the ST3 area, we needed someone affected by the agency’s unfair calculations to file a lawsuit, and we did just that.

The problem for Sound Transit is that the bill it gave to the Legislature in 2015, giving it the taxing authority, was written unconstitutionally. Sound Transit cited a calculation for the car-tab taxes that had been repealed and deceived taxpayers about how much they’d really have to pay. Not to mention the transit authority used public resources to support its political efforts by giving over 150,000 private email addresses to a campaign.

To date, Sound Transit advocates have successfully blocked any tax relief, arguing that it would be catastrophic because they had to, by law, use the higher car valuations. Now it turns out, they’ve been using a different calculation all along! When that fact came to light, the state attorney general, who had submitted briefs to the high court, backed out of defending Sound Transit.

So, what does all this mean? It confirms what my colleagues and I, and taxpayers, have felt for years. Sound Transit deceived voters and the Legislature to get more tax revenue. What we’ve learned is that this agency will do anything to get more of your money. It broke the law and doesn’t care. The amazing thing is that Sound Transit’s attorneys said as much during the hearing.

Sound Transit argued that if it lost, needed tax revenue for projects would be lost.  So, its argument to the court is: Don’t rule in favor of the taxpayers because we will have to give them back their money we lied to them to get. The bottom line, and what Justice Gonzalez pointed out, is: ”It doesn’t matter if it is a dollar or a billion, the constitution is the constitution.” The cost to the agency doesn’t matter if the agency didn’t follow the law. Taxpayers have a right to know what the government is doing.

It is for these same reasons that I’ve been advocating for some serious reforms of this agency. Instead of appointed and unaccountable bureaucrats, Sound Transit’s board should be elected by the people.

I’ll be sure to keep you updated on further developments in the case.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns about your state government. It is an honor to serve as your state Senator.



Fortunato Signature

Phil Fortunato

Your 31st District State Senator