Fees from vehicle registrations, titles would finance replacement for aging fleet
OLYMPIA – The state would update its aging ferry fleet with a new boat and sustain shipyard jobs under a bill approved by the Senate Friday, March 7, 2014.
"This is a win for Washington," said Rep. Jeff Morris, who sponsored the proposal. "This bill is good news for businesses, commuters and tourists, and for the boatbuilders and their families."
The state’s ferry fleet – the largest in the nation – includes some boats that date back to the Eisenhower Administration. The state Department of Transportation has already contracted with Vigor Industrial to build two new 144-vehicle ferries at its Puget Sound shipyards. Morris’ bill would finance construction of a third boat, taking advantage of the worker skills, expertise and efficiency developed by Vigor and thereby saving millions on the cost.
“This is absolutely critical legislation for our ferry-reliant communities,” Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, said.
The measure, House Bill 1129, would set fees of $5 for each new or renewed vehicle registration and of $12 for each vehicle title transaction processed by country auditors or the state Department of Licensing, with that money going to the financing of a third new 144-vehicle ferry in the system’s Issaquah class.
Those charges are now assessed and pocketed by the private licensing agents that many car and truck owners go to for registrations and title paperwork – but the transactions currently are exempt from the fees when they are performed by county auditors or the DOL.
"Our ferries are crucial to our economy and way of life, and it's essential to propel the fleet into the 21st century," Morris said. Improvements to the ferry system are especially important to residents of the 40th Legislative District, which includes the San Juan Islands and the mainland coast from Anacortes to Bellingham.
The Senate voted 41-8 for the bill. The measure earlier was approved by the House, and it will return there for approval of Senate amendments.