Howie Rosenfeld, chair of our local Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) recently wrote a report for the FAC Executive Committee regarding a meeting held on January 27 with the governor and representatives of ferry-served communities. He has given permission for the report to be posted here for your review.
*My numbers are from rough from sketchy notes, so they may be off, but I wanted to get a report out.
January 29, 2011
In David Moseley’s weekly email he mentions the meeting between the governor and county representatives of the proposed regional ferry district last Thursday. Most of the nine counties were represented, and I was pleased that eastsiders Skagit, Snohomish, King and Pierce were at the table.
The Governor started with the acknowledgment that although the Regional Ferry District plan is not being well received, it has served to shine a bright light on the problem. She said her plan A&B suggestion two years ago was also an attempt to focus attention but wasn’t successful since plan A, though selected, was not funded. David Moseley and Teresa Berenson (sp?) presented the financials in a way that effectively trumped our charts, which showed WSF becoming a smaller percent of the overall transportation budget over 10 years. The piece of the money puzzle that we haven’t had is that the Nickel and the TPA 9.5 cent gas taxes can no longer be tapped to fill WSF. What our chart doesn’t show, according to Berenson, is a steep decline in transportation funding starting in 2013. The Nickel and the TPA were bonded for 25-30 years for projects that have been completed. That money is effectively gone.
There’s still confusion over the budget numbers being different depending on the source, but it’s clear that ferries are the first to lose funding. Other transportation needs will be affected in future biennia, which is why they don’t want to tap other DOT budgets.
Since 2000 $852m has been siphoned from other DOT sources to supplement WSF funding lost from I-695, but since it’s been 10 years and nothing has been done as a fix, she says we can no longer blame the lost MVET. The “can has been kicked down the road” for 10 years and there are no more available pots of money to kick it further. She also declared that we’re “tapped out on fares” and that further increases will only depress ridership.
In this next biennium there’s a $40m funding gap in operations (bad but not critical) and a $930m gap in capital (critical: new boats, vessel maintenance, terminals, etc.). There is nothing in capital after 2013! For a sustainable level of funding they are looking at an almost $2b gap. Moseley did say they have about ½ the funding needed to build a 144.
She says the legislature understands this. The solution is not yet understood.
The discussion covered all the usual talking points with emphasis on fixing state transportation as a whole, the economic value of ferry service, tourism, fairness, etc. The conversation boiled down to the current political climate where citizens want the service but have a disconnect where they don’t seem to understand the connection it has to taxes.
It was a good meeting, personal connections were made, ideas discussed and some follow-up planned. The Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC) organized the meeting and they are staying involved. They are interested in ideas to take back to the Governor. Does the FAC Executive Committee have an official list or what do you suggest? This is a good opportunity to contribute.