Union workers asking lawmakers to better fund ferry system

SEATTLE -- Union workers have taken to Youtube in hopes of getting lawmakers to dedicate more money to the state's struggling ferry system.

Washington's ferries carry 22 million people and 9.9 million cars each and every years. By volume, that's that largest ferry system in the county and third largest in the world.

The ferry system hasn't had a dedicated money stream since voters passed Initiative 695 in 1999, which cut the vehicle excise tax and gutted $1.2 billion from the state's transportation budget. The ferry system was hardest hit, losing $150 million a year.

Ferry unions want more state money for the system, and they recently produced a video to drive that point home to lawmakers.

"I like the video and I like the fact that they're making the case," said Rep. Larry Seaquist.

Seaquist said he's among those in Olympia who are fighting to fund the system.

"We need to have operations fully funded," he said. "We need to have construction fully funded, so we're hoping that this new transportation package includes full funding for our ferries."

Seaquist and others say it's still too early in the budget process to know what the transportation package will look like.

"You know, we haven't had a serious attempt at ferry funding since 1999," said Union lobbyist Gordon Baxter. "There hasn't been a serious attempt to have dedicated funding for the operations and maintenance."

One bill currently on the table -- and unrelated to the budget -- would add a $5 fee to all vehicle registrations in the state. That money would go directly into an account dedicated to building new boats. The bill is still in committee.