Tim Eyman is sponsoring another $30 car-tab initiative, I-976, on this year’s ballot. Among a long list of transportation funding cuts included, I-976 could have an immediate negative effect on funding for ferry operations as well as ferry maintenance and improvements.
The results on ferries of the $30 car tab 20 years ago (I-695) should not be forgotten. Ferry fares nearly doubled over the following few years, and new vessel construction was shut down for the following decade. Ferry construction was funded by the vehicle excise tax, which was never replaced. There is still no capital funding program to replace aging ferries, each one requires an act of the Legislature and a patchwork of funding, including a ticket surcharge. We see the continuing impact of I-695 every time we ride a ferry. If I-976 passes, the impact on ferries could be hauntingly similar.
I-976 would limit car tab fees to $30 and eliminate or limit a spectrum of weight and other fees, severely impacting transportation funding. Three-quarters of the hit is on the “Multimodal Account” which funds a wide variety of transportation systems: buses, light rail, HOV and HOT lanes, and … ferries.
For the current biennium (July 2019 to June 2021) about $55 million is appropriated from the Multimodal and Ferry accounts to ferries operations. This represents about 20 percent or more of the total funding for operations and is very much at risk if I-976 passes.
The impact of this initiative statewide could be huge. How much of that would fall on WSF is unknown at this point. WSDOT and the Legislature would have to make some very hard choices. But there is no magic; a decrease in ferries operations funding probably means higher fares or reduced service or both. And another attack on transportation funding would certainly dampen any enthusiasm that the Legislature might have for funding the building of much needed replacement ferries over the next few decades.
At a recent Ferry Advisory Committee public meeting, a straw vote was taken. The near-unanimous vote was against I-976. Please join us in voting “no” on Initiative 976.
Clinton Ferry Advisory Committee
Dave Hoogerwerf, chairman
Dean Enell, appointed member
Dean Workman, appointed member