OLYMPIA, Wash. – Lawmakers from both parties are giving a thumbs-down to Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal to create a regional authority for the state ferry system.
At a House Transportation Committee hearing Thursday, representatives shot down the proposal, saying they don't think it has the votes to pass, and the chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee said she won't even give the proposal a hearing, the Kitsap Sun reported Friday.
Gregoire's proposal would create a nine-county, semi-independent regional authority to take control of the Washington State Ferries, a move she hopes will help avoid the ferries' capital fund running into red ink in coming years.
However, legislators were skeptical.
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"I don't hear consensus to go forward with the plan as it is. I don't feel it has the votes," said Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island and the Transportation Committee chairwoman. "The hard work now is to figure how to make the service run mean and lean."
Republicans had nothing good to say about the proposal either.
"If Washington state can't support it, how in the world can the counties support it?" asked committee member Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard.
Gregoire's proposal comes out of worries that the ferry system's financial woes will worsen in the 2013-2015 biennium. State calculations show the ferries operating fund hitting a $34.2 million deficit by that time.
Despite the state's goal in 2000 of fares providing 80 percent of operating costs, they have only provided an annual average of 68.4 percent of total costs since then.
The state's ferry head, David Mosely, attributes the rising costs of maintaining the ferry system to increasing prices of labor and fuel, which make up 80 percent of the ferries' costs. Shipbuilding costs are also on the rise.
Mosely said the ferry system has been cutting costs to combat higher prices and remedy financial wastes within the system.