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Gov. Gregoire announces plan for regional ferry district

Gov. Christine Gregoire has announced a plan to form a regional ferry district that would raise more money for the ferry system through a new government entity that could raise taxes in the nine counties served by Washington State Ferries.

“These difficult times require bold action to not only save taxpayer money but to improve the way the state does business and serves the public,” Gregoire said in her announcement.

Washington State Ferries is facing a $900 million shortfall over the next decade, and Gregoire said her proposal would help bridge the budget divide for the ferry system that was caused by the loss of motor vehicle excise taxes with the passage of Initiative 695 in 1999.

Gregoire said a new Puget Sound Regional Ferry District — which would include Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Clallam, Jefferson, Kitsap, King and Pierce counties — would take over responsibility for the state ferries system.

“Rather than patch together funding for the ferries for another two years and subject ferry riders and communities to more uncertainty, I believe it is time to take bold action so the system is sustainable, safe and accessible,” Gregoire said. “A regional district will give the communities and families who depend on the ferries the stability and control they deserve.”

The governor said she would introduce a bill to form the ferry district, which would then go to the Legislature for approval.

Funding for state ferries would come from taxes levied in the counties served by the ferry system, and also from ferry fares and a state subsidy that would fund a core level of service.

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