I-976 may impact buses, ferries on Whidbey

Whidbey is an island where many people rely on ferry and bus service.

As a result, a lot of people on Whidbey may feel the impact of Initiative 976, which statewide voters passed in the general election.

The Tim Eyman-sponsored initiative limits car-tab fees to $30 for vehicles that weigh 10,000 pounds or less. Many fees in excess of $30, which vary based on where a car is registered and the type and weight of vehicle, will be eliminated or reduced.

Nearly 53 percent of voters in the state cast ballots in support of the initiative. In Island County, voters rejected I-976 by a margin of 1 percent.

The city of Oak Harbor passed a resolution in opposition to the initiative in October.

King County and Seattle are preparing lawsuits opposing the initiatives. Legal experts, including the former state attorney general, opined that it may violate the single subject requirement for initiatives.

In addition to the $30 car tab fee, the initiative reduces several other car-related fees and taxes.

If I-976 takes effect, the state would lose $4.2 billion in transportation funding over six years. The revenue for the multi-modal account that funds Island Transit would lose an estimated $1.5 billion, a cut of about 70 percent, according to Island Transit.

The agency receives about 17 percent of its annual revenues from the multi-modal fund, which amounts to $3.27 million this year, according to Island Transit.

The funds in jeopardy would be $1.8 million for the fare-free bus service, more than $600,000 for paratransit service, $340,000 for county connectors and about $500,000 for replacement vanpool vans, Island Transit reported.

Members of the Clinton Ferry Advisory Committee warned prior to the election that the passage of the initiative would likely mean fare increases, service reduction or both. A portion of funding for ferries operations come from a state multimodal account that relies on car tabs.

The actual impact on ferries would depend on how and where state officials decide to make cuts.

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