Chambers Bay US Open loses help of State Patrol for now

Pierce County officials’ hopes that they’ll receive backup from the State Patrol during the 2015 U.S. Open were dealt a blow Friday with a flick of Gov. Jay Inslee’s pen.

Inslee vetoed a portion of the state transportation budget that would have directed the State Patrol to help local officials with traffic control and “other activities” associated with hosting the golf championship.

The event will be at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place.

Inslee said he vetoed the U.S. Open budget provision because it didn’t include funding for the State Patrol to take on the added duties.

Inslee had previously recommended a $400,000 budget allocation for the State Patrol to help with the U.S. Open. But that money didn’t make it into the budget that passed the Legislature.

“I’m in favor of the State Patrol helping Pierce County,” Inslee said Friday. “Unfortunately the legislators took that money away and put zero in to allow the State Patrol to actually do its job.”

“We want the State Patrol to actually be able to provide this service, not just give a fig leaf to Pierce County,” Inslee said.

County officials had asked Inslee to keep the U.S. Open proviso in this year’s transportation budget, even if it didn’t provide the extra funding. They said the money could be added back later.

“The state of Washington made far more significant contributions for the 2010 Winter Olympics held in Vancouver, B.C.,” wrote County Executive Pat McCarthy and County Council Chairman Dan Roach in a March 18 letter to Inslee.

“The impacts to freeway and border crossings (for the Olympics) were minimal compared to the number of cars that will be on our freeways for the U.S. Open Championship,” the letter stated.

State Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Tacoma, said there’s no doubt that Pierce County needs the extra help.

“We know there’s going to be a significant influx of spectators and tourists in that period of time,” O’Ban said. “It will just likely overwhelm our law enforcement agencies in the area.”

It is still possible that lawmakers will allocate money next year for the State Patrol to help with the June 2015 event. Inslee said he’s optimistic that will happen.

McCarthy said in a statement late Friday that while disappointed by the veto, she will work with Inslee and members of the Legislature to address the issue during the 2015 legislative session, which begins in January.

“Everyone agrees that bringing the U.S. Open to the Pacific Northwest for the first time will provide a huge benefit to the entire state,” McCarthy said.

Also Friday, Inslee vetoed part of the state operating budget that would have directed the state Department of Revenue to study how much of an increase in state sales tax revenue the U.S. Open will generate.

That budget proviso was a compromise that evolved from an earlier proposal by O’Ban, who suggested that county governments receive a 40 percent cut of the extra state sales tax revenue generated by major events.

“We said, ‘What if we just require this analysis to be done, and then we could make our case?’ ” O’Ban said.

Inslee said in his veto letter that both state and local governments rely on sales tax revenues from large events.

“The proviso establishes an unwise precedent of attempting to identify only state sales tax revenue attributable to a particular event,” the letter said.

Melissa Santos: 360-970-9463