The group’s lawsuit seeks to overturn Washington’s transportation law

SEATTLE (AP) — A conservative legal group is suing to halt the nearly $17 billion Transportation Finance Act passed by the Washington Legislature last year and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The organization, the Citizen Action Defense Fund, argued in a filing on Tuesday that the 16-year traffic revenue package contains several issues that lack “rational unity” and that it therefore violates the state constitution.

“It’s become a Christmas tree bill that anyone can throw at,” executive director Jackson Maynard told the Seattle Times on Tuesday.

The case was brought on behalf of a construction company and a freight company, who are being “harmed and harmed” as a result, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit, filed in Thurston County Superior Court, asks a judge to reverse the law entirely.

Senate Bill 5974, known as Move Ahead Washington, passed the final session despite opposition from most Republicans. The legislature will pay for the completion of massive freeway projects and the state’s share of the cost – $1 billion – to replace the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River connecting Washington and Oregon.

The plan gets $5.4 billion from a carbon pricing program, with the rest coming from sources such as federal infrastructure funds, state budget funds, and higher fees for extended licenses and license plates.

The legislation also represents the state’s largest transportation investment in the ferry system, transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects, with billions pouring into expanding opportunities for non-drivers.

Move Ahead was the fourth transport finance package passed by the Legislature in the last 20 years.

Sen. Marko Liias, a Lynnwood Democrat who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, said Tuesday that Lt. Governor Denny Heck reviewed the bill before it was passed and believed it would be found constitutional. The package offers a “comprehensive” answer to the state’s transportation needs, which voters wanted, Liias said.

Inslee spokesman Jaime Smith said the governor’s office hasn’t seen the lawsuit but is asking how this package differs from the previous three.

It is not uncommon for courts to throw out new laws because they contained too many subjects or their titles were deemed misrepresentative.

Hugh Spitzer, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Washington, said he would be surprised if the court tossed out the entire law.

The Citizen Action Defense Fund is funded by “donors across Washington” but does not disclose by whom, according to its website. Rob McKenna, a former Republican attorney general of Washington, is listed as a member of the organization’s legal advisory board.