A number of Senators, many with constituents who depend on the state's ferry system for essential travel, have voiced skepticism over Governor Chris Gregoire's proposal addressing the financially struggling cross-Sound fleet. Her proposal would create a regional ferry district that would receive partial funding by the state as well as have local taxing authority, much like the system that funds Sound Transit. Currently the system is considered an integral component of the comprehensive state transportation system. As such, it is a part of the Department of Transportation.
In a joint statement signed on to by Senate Transportation Committee Chair Mary Margaret Haugen along with Senators Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam, Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor, Tim Sheldon of Potlatch and Kevin ranker of San Juan Island, there was a voicing of concern that isolating the ferry system and removing it from the state transportation system, while adding an additional layer of government, was at its heart, unfair to ferry patrons.
The senators pointed out that among the mega transportation projects underway, including Spokane’s North-South Corridor Project, the new Vancouver-Portland Bridge and waterfront tunnel and SR-520 replacement in Seattle, no one in those communities is paying a special tax to fund those projects. They further pointed out that everyone across the state is paying for those projects because those projects are a critical part of the state infrastructure, just as the ferries are.