OLYMPIA - Hoping to bring more financial stability to the Washington State Ferries, legislators are proposing cutting labor costs, privatizing leadership of the system, raising fares by a quarter or creating an accountability board to set performance measures for managers.
Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposed ferry budget for the 2011-13 period includes raising fares by 10 percent, adding a fuel surcharge and reducing daily trips. She also counts on diverting $44 million from the road fund.
But state lawmakers say they want to avoid large fare increases or fewer sailings. They think they can come up with some of the $44 million by scrubbing the budget.
“We are scrubbing the ferry system budget, going line-byline to find efficiencies,” Rep. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds, vice chairman of the House transportation committee told the Daily Herald. “When we’re done, there’ll be no grand plan or something to put on a poster board that you stand in front of.”
The governor had told lawmakers that if they didn’t like her proposal to create a regional authority for the state ferry system, they needed to come up with their own, the newspaper reported.
The Senate transportation committee this week considered one measure to add a quarter to the price of a ferry ride to raise money for building or buying new vessels, the Daily Herald reported.
Fares cover about 70 percent of the ferries’ day-to-day expenses, with the remainder coming from gas taxes deposited in the state’s road fund.