OLYMPIA – Washington State Governor, Christine Gregoire today announced a plan that would transform the Washington State Ferry system from a state-run operation to a regional ferry district.
“These difficult times require bold action to not only save taxpayer money but to improve the way the state does business and serves the public,” said Gregoire.
The governor will introduce legislation to create a Puget Sound Regional Ferry District to operate the ferry system. The district would consist of all or a portion of the following counties: Clallam, Jefferson, Kitsap, Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, King and Pierce counties. The district’s funds would come from fares, a state subsidy to fund a core level of service, and regional taxing authority to ensure service levels are consistent with local and regional needs.
The ferry system is facing serious financial trouble. Washington State Ferries has lost more than $1.2 billion in funding since 1999 when voters repealed the motor vehicle excise tax, or MVET, with Initiative 695. According to the national Passenger Vehicle Association, this lack of stable funding is a critical challenge to the system’s sustainability and level of service. The system faces a $900 million shortfall over the next ten years.
“Rather than patch together funding for the ferries for another two years and subject ferry riders and communities to more uncertainty, I believe it is time to take bold action so the system is sustainable, safe and accessible,” Gregoire said. “A regional district will give the communities and families who depend on the ferries the stability and control they deserve.”
After the Legislature creates the district, an interim board needs to form to begin discussions with the state about the level of state funding and other details. Once those discussions conclude, the Legislature would need to approve the state’s subsidy.
Download the governor’s ferry proposal HERE.
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