Senate approves Ericksen-backed fuel tax exemption for Whatcom Chief ferry

Today, the Senate approved a bill to exempt the Whatcom Chief  ferry that serves Lummi Island from the sales and use tax on fuel beginning July 1, 2013. Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, worked across the aisle with the Transportation Committee chairwoman to include county-owned ferries in the exemption for state ferries.

“The amended version of the bill would ensure that the Whatcom Chief, which is supported by Whatcom County taxpayers, is not paying taxes to state government,” Ericksen said. “Riders on the Whatcom Chief just recently experienced an increase in fares; my amendment is a common-sense step we can take in Olympia to help keep operating costs down.”

The measure, Senate Bill 5742, is part of a state ferry system reform package working its way through the Legislature.

“The Senate voted to abolish the Marine Employees Commission and move representation of ferry workers to the Public Employment Relations Committee, which will save state dollars in the long-term,” Ericksen said. “The bill would raise the threshold on ferry construction projects subject to the 15 percent apprenticeship requirement. This will make bids more competitive and allow more small companies to get the work.”

The measure is now before the House of Representatives for consideration.