Fight The Ferry Tax!

There are currently two bills in the Transportation Committees of the Washington State House and Senate that will modify the law to allow Skagit County to create a Ferry Taxing District of Guemes Island. We have set up an email that you can sign and send to the Joint Transportation Committee, urging changes to the bills that would grant us a vote on the creation of the district or require any ferry taxing district be county-wide. Please read, sign and send.

To The Joint Transportation Committee of the Washington State Legislature

Prevent a ferry taxing district of less than 1000 people.

The Skagit County Commissioners have announced their intention to replace the county ferry running between Anacortes and Guemes Island. Further, they have applied to the County Road Administration Board (CRAB) for a $10 million grant. CRAB rules now require the establishment of a ferry taxing district. Skagit County intends to tax only Guemes Island property owners to the maximum $0.75 per thousand dollar valuation, in addition to adding a significant ticket surcharge.

As you can imagine, I find it unfair and improper for Skagit County to impose a tax on less than 2% of the County's population for infrastructure that serves all of that population. Was that the intent of the legislature?

HB1331* offers some hope that, were the County to proceed with taxing such a small population, that population at least be allowed a vote on it. However, there seems to be an provision in the bill that makes this vote optional.

SB6354* helps as well in removing the County Road Advisory Board's requirement of a ferry taxing district. However, it does not preclude Skagit County from doing what they have promised to do, should they choose to.

I hope that HB1331 and SB6354 can be combined, preserving much of both bills but removing the means for the county to obviate the vote. Also, that any ferry taxing district consist of an entire county or some major portion thereof, certainly more than the less than 1000 property owners of Guemes Island.

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*HB 1331-S - DIGEST
Requires the legislative authority of a county who intends to create a ferry district in only a portion of the county to: (1) Submit a proposition to create the ferry district, at the next general election, to the voters in the portion of the county where the ferry district is intended to be created; or (2) Publish notice of the intention to create a ferry district, in one or more newspapers of general circulation within the county, by February 1st of the year in which the ferry district is to be created. Allows a county ferry district to: (1) Construct, purchase, operate, and maintain any ferries or wharves at certain locations; and (2) Incur general indebtedness, and issue general obligation bonds, to finance the construction, purchase, and preservation of any ferries and associated terminals.

**SB 6354 - DIGEST
Prohibits a county, that is making a request for county ferry capital improvement funds, from being required to create a ferry district as a condition of eligibility for the funding.