Some higher car tab fees would fund ferries under House bill

Staff writerFebruary 12, 2014 

In this photo taken on June 28, 2009, a ferry transports passengers to one of the four San Juan Islands serviced by the Washington State Ferries. (AP Photo/Carey J. Williams)

CAREY J. WILLIAMS — AP

Some drivers would pay higher car tab fees to build new ferries under a bill that passed the state House Wednesday.

House members voted 62-36 to add a $5 service fee for car tab renewals and an extra $12 service charge to vehicle title transactions.

The new fees would apply to transactions conducted through public offices such as the Department of Licensing, a county courthouse or county auditor. Privately run vehicle licensing businesses already charge these fees to customers.

Money from the new fees -- about $22.5 million per year -- would go into an account that pays for ferry construction.

The state Department of Transportation has already funded the construction of two new ferries that can hold 144 cars, part of an effort to replace Washington State Ferries’ aging fleet. Work on those two vessels is already underway.

Supporters of House Bill 1129 said raising more money through vehicle fees would allow for the construction of a third new ferry.

Speaking against the measure was Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, who said that taxpayers in his district are still reeling from an optional $5 state parks donation that is added by default to their car tab renewal bill. He said his constituents don’t understand why they should have to pay for ferries that operate far outside his district.

Rep. Judy Clibborn, a Mercer Island Democrat who chairs the House Transportation Committee, said the ferries are iconic symbols of Washington. Furthermore, “those ferries are absolutely essential to certain parts of the state,” Clibborn said, comparing the ailing ferries to bridges in need of repair.

Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, said although there are no ferries in her Eastern Washington district, her constituents still enjoy using them when they visit the Puget Sound region.

“This is one Washington, and sometimes we need to step up and realize this is an asset in our state.” Walsh said.

The measure passed the House 62-36. It will now head to the state Senate for consideration.

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