Tim Eyman’s I-976 severely impacts Ferries | Guest column

Tim Eyman’s I-976 severely impacts Ferries | Guest column

Submitted by the San Juan County Ferry Advisory Committee

Tim Eyman is back on the ballot with another $30 car-tab initiative, I-976. You may have seen the TV ads or visited www.no976.com on the web. Among a long list of cuts, I-976 would have an immediate effect on funding for ferry operations as well as maintenance and improvements.

The repercussions of Eyman’s I-695 20 years ago 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 and if I-976 passes it will only get worse.

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 alternative transportation systems, buses; light rail; high-occupancy vehicle lanes; high-occupancy travel lanes; and ferries.

For the current biennium — July 2019 to June 2021 — $45 million is appropriated from the multimodal account to ferries operations. This represents about 9 percent of the total funding for operations and is very much at risk if I-976 passes.

The impact of this initiative statewide would be huge. How much of that would fall on Washington State Ferries is unknown at this point, Washington State Department of Transportation and the legislature would have to make some very hard choices. But there is no magic. A decrease in ferries’ operations funding means reduced service or higher fares, or both. And another attack on transportation funding would certainly dampen any enthusiasm that the Legislature might have for transportation improvements.

Please join us in voting “No!” on Initiative 976.

The San Juan County Ferry Advisory Committee is comprised of Chairman Jim Corenman, San Juan Island; Rick Hughes, County Council; Larry Vandermay, Orcas; Ken Burtness, Lopez; Jennifer Swanson, Shaw; Deborah Hopkins Buchanan, Visitors; Pat McKay, Commercial Rep. To contact the FAC, email fac@sanjuanco.com.

For more information on the effect I-976 would have on the state transportation budget, visit https://bit.ly/2ITzSUS.