A House bill making its way through the state Legislature is gaining support from local boat repair companies who say current law makes it a challenge to attract out-of-state boaters.
The Marine Tourism Bill would increase to six months the amount of time an out-of-state boat owned by a business could stay in Washington. Currently, such boats can stay in Washington up to 60 days without potentially facing thousands of dollars in state taxes.
Lengthening the time they could stay would help bring more money into the state because boat owners would be more likely to stay here for boat maintenance and would spend money on other products while visiting, said Phil Riise, the president of Seaview Boatyard and Yacht Service, which has facilities in Bellingham and Seattle.
"There are guys who have told me that they are not staying with us (because of the restriction)," said Riise, who recently went to Olympia to talk to lawmakers about the bill. "The increase in business if this is approved will offset the lost taxes and possibly create more jobs. It's an overall benefit for Washington."
Currently, out-of-state businesses and other entities that own a boat can file for a time extension if they are having maintenance work done in Washington. But Riise is critical of that arrangement, saying boat owners worry about the extra paperwork and the possibility of missing the deadline.
"They tell me they just don't want to test that extension," he said. "A streamlined format where everyone knows its six months would give these boat owners more confidence."
Peter Schrappen of the Northwest Marine Trade Association said the group is hopeful the bill will become a part of state budget negotiations as things heat up in the second half of the legislative session in Olympia.
Rep. Kristine Lytton, D-Anacortes, and Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, are sponsors of the House bill, while Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, and Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, are sponsors of a companion bill in the upper chamber.