"Demo, GOP ferry proposals differ"

"There was plenty of finger-pointing in Olympia this week after House budget writers unveiled their spending proposals.Republicans claimed the Democratic budget, which gives the ferry system $10 million for operations and $17 million for capital, is shortsighted. I was more than extremely disappointed by it, Rep. Beverly Woods (R-23rd District/Poulsbo) said of the Democrats' plan. Obviously, they haven't even considered our ferry crisis; $10 million won't even get us through the next session.Not so, said Rep. Kathy Haigh (D-35th District/Shelton). Although the Democratic budget doesn't provide enough money to maintain all current service, it offers $7 million more to ferries than the Republican budget, she said.The Republican House budget was written by Rep. Tom Huff (R-26th District/Gig Harbor). It gives $20 million to ferries each year for operations and it supports $1.3 billion in bonds for transportation projects in general.Democrats, including Rep. Jeff Morris (40th District/Sedro-Woolley), criticized the GOP plan for sacrificing schools to pave highways. The Republican plan diverts $104 million from motor vehicle-related sales taxes to state transportation programs. That sales tax money would have flowed into the state general fund, which pays for education.Transit agencies would also get a piece of the general fund pie under the Republican plan, with $50 million budgeted to cover fourth-quarter 1999 vehicle tax distributions and another $50 million for operating costs to be distributed to transit districts across the state.Democrats offer $130 million for transit out of the general fund. Of that, $80 million is to maintain service, and $50 million would pay transit agencies for their share of the fourth-quarter 1999 vehicle tax.Haigh said the Democrats' plan will support ferries much better than the Republican version. Washington State Ferries officials asked for about $10 million to make its proposed cuts in service substantially smaller. A little more than $5 million would save some passenger-only service, while a little less than $5 million would support auto ferries.Haigh said the best part of the Democratic budget is the $17 million allocated for ferry capital. That amount will bring in $14.5 million more in federal matching funds, something she said the Republican budget won't get.Woods said there's a wide chasm between the two parties' proposals.This is not the answer, she said, adding Democrats are going to have to come a long way closer to where (Republicans) are at before I like it.The Senate proposed budget, written by Democrats, will be released Monday. Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-10th District/Camano Island) is chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee and will provide a third option for transportation funding then."

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