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WSDOT/WSF reform is critical

March 9, 2013 · Updated 11:29 AM
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Washington’s 63rd legislative 105-day session races along with bills penned, debated and discarded to the cutting-room floor.

“All animals are equal but some more than others”: Same holds true for legislative bills.

House Democrat majority prepares to steamroll its $10 billion transportation package built on new gas taxes (10 cents per gallon), jump in car-tax fees (100-200 percent), bicycle fees. End product: Series of statewide mega-highway projects. Glaringly absent is genuine reform to transportation priorities, WSDOT organization/performance and WSF vision. Remind Reps. Appleton and Hansen true reform must precede $10 billion in taxes. The Democrats’ pending bill is AWOL on reform. Fortunately, the new Senate coalition majority indicates it will demand reform before any transportation plan is approved.

I have long championed the key element of WSDOT funding reform by repeal of RCW 47.60.814(17) passed in 1990. This law requires WSF vessels be built only in Washington state (Vigor Industries being the sole bidder), resulting in taxpayers paying a 40 percent subsidy mark-up on all WSF vessel construction. The State Auditor’s WSF audit last month and Gov. Gregoire’s 2010 Blue-Ribbon Commission challenged the fiscal sense of preventing an open-bid national search for vessel-construction value. With a fleet replacement rate of one dangerously aged WSF vessel every 2.7 years, billions of dollars in waste are in the balance.

Free-market construction bidding works outstandingly well for private business and individuals — why not WSF?

Senate majority coalition is giving this critical reform a hearing in Olympia. In the 23rd District, contact Sen. Rolfes and tell her reform of WADOT/WSF is critical before we see a dime in new taxes. Our ferry fleet is expensive and critical to us; we must have the highest and best value for our taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

James M. Olsen
Bainbridge Island

 

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