Pierce County officials are applauding the state legislature for passing a bill that aligns ferry system funding increases with inflation. Prior to Senate Bill 5307, revenue streams to county ferry systems were largely dependent on available state gas-tax funds and often subject to shifting political winds.
“Pierce County is one of three counties in the state that operates its own ferry system, the funding for which – until this bill was passed – was capped at a million dollars divided three ways. In fact, despite the population increases there hasn’t been an increase in ferry funding since 1991,” said Doug Richardson, Pierce County Council Vice Chair. “Thanks to Senator Steve O’Ban and Representatives Jake Fey and Dick Muri, our ferry system will get a much-needed revenue boost and will therefore rely less heavily on the county road fund.”
In late 2013, Richardson helped draft the first version of what eventually became SB 5307 while studying ways to make transportation funding more consistent from year to year and less reliant on legislative action. Pierce County Airport and Ferry Administrator Deb Wallace says the bill’s passage is welcome news.
“It’s been over 20 years since the legislature last increased our funding,” said Wallace, “and I am delighted not only that they adopted a measure that was first drafted by Pierce County, but that future funding will be indexed to a growth factor instead of being debated each year.”
SB 5307 will help reduce Pierce County’s reliance on funding ferry operations with county road funds, monies Wallace says are needed for other county roadwork and maintenance. Once the bill is signed by the governor and becomes law, the statewide funding cap will increase to $1.8 million for the next two-year period and Pierce County should see its share increase between $200,000 and $300,000.
For more information on the Pierce County Ferry System, please visit www.piercecountywa.org/ferry.
Doug Richardson, Pierce County Council
Deb Wallace, Pierce County Airport and Ferry Administrator