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Haugen ferry reform and revenue bills move out of committee

A bill sponsored by Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen that would allow a 25-cent surcharge on each ferry fare to pay for a new 144-car ferry was moved out of the Senate Transportation Committee late Thursday.

Haugen, D-Camano Island, said SB-5742 would create a Capital Vessel Replacement Account to pay for the new vessel. Haugen is chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

“The governor challenged us to come up with a better plan if we didn’t like hers,” Haugen said in a statement to the press, referring to Gov. Chris Gregoire's earlier proposal to create a new taxing district to pay for the ferry system.

“This is our answer," Haugen said. "It’s not the entire answer — we still have more to do — but it’s a start in the right direction and it addresses the problem in a way that ferry users can live with.”

“While the fees themselves won’t be enough to build an entire vessel, they’re a start — and the money they generate will give us something to start a bond that eventually can make the new ferry a reality,” Haugen said.

Two other bills to reform the state ferry system were also passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday. According to Haugen's office, SB-5405 and SB-5406 would eliminate wasteful practices and adopt operating efficiencies throughout the ferry system.

The bills would prohibit collective bargaining agreements for ferry workers from being more generous than agreements for other public employees on overtime, compensated holidays, annual leave accrual, types of leave, travel time for commuting, and penalty pay.

“These bills are about fiscal accountability and fairness,” said Haugen, a 10th District lawmaker. “Number one, we can’t ask people for more money for ferries unless we make sure we’re spending that money wisely. Second, we need to bring ferry employees' compensation and benefits in line with the rest of the state's public employees.”

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