Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Ferry funding bill a difficult issue
House Bill 1129 will likely be coming to the House floor soon for a vote. This bill would add $5 to vehicle tabs and $12 to vehicle title transfers for purchases made at the local Auditors Office or thru the Department of Licensing. It would not increase fees for people who make these purchases through licensing subagents. The additional revenues would fund a third 144-car ferry, which would likely be constructed on Whidbey Island where it would maintain about 100 jobs.
This is a difficult issue for me because I know we need the third ferry and we sure could use the additional jobs. So I do support the concept. But I really have concerns about the funding mechanism. The revenue from the fee increases would be bonded out for 25 years to pay for the ferry. But those fee increases would be permanent. So even after the ferry is paid off in 25 years, which I think is an excessive amount of time, those fees would continue. My other concern is that even during my telephone town hall meeting on Jan 29, it was very clear people do not want higher gas taxes for transportation projects. A survey I held that night found that 83 percent of respondents not willing to pay an extra 10-and-a-half cents a gallon in taxes for transportation projects in the state. Additionally, the telephone survey also reflected concerns regarding the state's budget and spending practices.
I have been exploring other ferry funding options, including:
- Adding a surcharge of $2.85 per ferry trip that fully funds construction of the new ferry. The surcharge would expire in two years when construction and payment of the ferry are fully completed; or
- Adding a small surcharge of up to 50 cents per ferry trip that is bonded to pay for construction, but expires in 25 years when the bonding is paid off.
I am working with financial experts regarding the financing to determine if there are more responsible options. In the meantime, I remain torn over whether to change my vote to “yes” when this bill comes to the House floor with its current funding mechanism. That is why I have created a short survey on this issue. I want to know what you think. Your answers will help me determine the best way to vote on this bill. Please click here to take my survey.
Public employee identity theft legislation gains committee approval
Recently, several Washington State Lottery employees came to me to ask for help in protecting their personal information from getting into the wrong hands. They told me about an inmate at the Thurston County Jail in Olympia who was using the state Public Records Act to gain access to their driver's license numbers and other sensitive personal information. We suspect the inmate was attempting to obtain this information for his own personal gain, putting these employees at risk for identity theft.
I sponsored House Bill 2376 that would exempt public employees' driver's license numbers and identicard numbers from being released for public inspection and copying. The bill recently passed the House Government Operations and Elections Committee and is now awaiting action in the House Rules Committee. Identity theft is a major problem in Washington and victims lose not only cash, but their good credit. This bill is a small, but important step, to protect public employees from becoming victims.
Read more in my press release.
Telephone town hall a success
Thank you to all who participated in my telephone town hall event on Jan. 29. We had nearly 700 people on the call. Questions ranged from transportation funding to the state budget, taxes, and a proposal to increase the state's minimum wage. During our survey, callers said their most important issue is the budget, followed by jobs and the economy. It was wonderful to talk with folks back home and get a feel for the issues that are most important to the people across the 10th Legislative District.
Throughout the legislative session, I record a radio program entitled, “Capitol Report,” which is aired on KSVR in Mount Vernon. You can also listen to the program right here from my e-newsletter or from my website. This week, I talk about legislation I sponsored (House Bill 2376) that would protect public employees from identity theft by prohibiting disclosure of license and employee identification numbers.
Many thanks to all of you who have called, e-mailed my office or sent a letter. Your input makes a big difference. Please take a moment to complete my Ferry Funding Survey. And thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve as your state representative.