Imagine crossing the Boeing Tacoma Narrows Bridge, driving across Lake Washington on the Microsoft 520 span, or having a picnic in the Amazon Deception Pass State Park. It could happen under legislation being considered by House committees in Olympia.
House Bill 1050 would authorize government agencies to sell naming rights of public facilities. House Bill 1051 would authorize the sale of rights to name or rename state transportation facilities.
The prime sponsor of the bills, Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, said it’s an innovative way for the state to collect revenue to support the cost, maintenance and financing of public infrastructure without raising tolls or seeking tax increases from citizens.
“The tolling rates on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge continue to escalate and I’m trying to find additional revenue that doesn’t come out of the taxpayers’ wallets, so that we can, hopefully, keep some of these tolls stable,” Angel told the House Transportation Committee Tuesday during a hearing on House Bill 1051.
Angel said that when she served several years ago as a Kitsap County commissioner, the county was struggling to pay for maintenance and operations of its fairgrounds. As a partial solution, the commissioners agreed to sell the naming rights of one of the fairground buildings to a local newspaper. Since then, Angel says Kitsap County has collected nearly $200,000 from the sale of the naming rights, which was used to keep the fairgrounds open and operational.
“That would be my goal with these bills,” noted Angel.
“The demands on our state’s transportation system are ballooning. Yet, current funding doesn’t meet our needs for operating, maintenance and preservation of our transportation infrastructure. At the same time, the purchasing power of our transportation revenue is steadily eroding,” said Angel. “During these challenging economic times, it is imperative that we, as legislators, try to think outside of the box. That’s what I’m endeavoring to do with this legislation.”
In an earlier hearing Tuesday before the House Government Operations and Elections Committee, Angel said sale of naming rights under House Bill 1050 could provide a substantial amount of money to support public facilities.
“The government has a lot of infrastructure. We have buildings, parks, bridges and water towers, just to name a few. The bill creates a framework, which authorizes public agencies to sell the right to name a room, a building, a dock or any infrastructure, even a park bench,” said Angel. “We could use the new revenue for upkeep and maintenance, but it would apply to the specific project that is named.”
Under terms of House Bill 1050, naming rights would be sold under a competitive bidding process and established under a written contract that would initially be limited to five years.
The 26th District lawmaker said provisions apply in both bills that would prevent the use of offensive names and advertising of indecent, discriminatory, religious and political advertising. Promotion of tobacco, marijuana, illegal narcotics and other names considered objectionable under local community standards would also be off limits.
Angel assured lawmakers in both committees the original names of bridges and other infrastructure would remain intact, but the names of sponsoring organizations would be added.
Asked if citizens would be concerned about commercialization of publicly-owned roads, bridges, ferries and other infrastructure, Angel pointed to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
“In this economy, people cannot afford tolls that could be raised to as much as $15,” she said. “We asked people in my legislative district, ‘Is this something that would be acceptable or would you have concerns about adding a sponsored name to public infrastructure, such as the bridge?’ Nearly 100 percent said, ‘I don’t care what you name the bridge. Just keep my tolls down!’”
During the hearings in both committees, no one voiced opposition. It is unknown yet whether the bills will be scheduled for a vote.