At the Washington Transportation Commission's meeting this afternoon, anti-tax initiative addict Tim Eyman railed against the commission's decision to increase ferry rates 2.5 percent, saying that after voters passed his Initiative 1053, which requires a majority vote of the legislature to raise fees, their vote was tantamount to "an illegal action." (That comment caused PI.com columnist Joel Connelly, who was sitting in the front row, to become visibly irritated. I couldn't tell if he was rolling his eyes, but his jaw did nearly hit the floor).
But Eyman (who talked about 10 minutes past his allotted public-comment time) wasn't done. Calling commissioners "unelected bureaucrats" (a charge that prompted two commissioners, all of whom are unpaid volunteers, to express "offense") he demanded that they wait to vote until Attorney General Rob McKenna issues an opinion on the matter next week.
"The law is very clear: A fee many only be imposed or increased in any fiscal year if approved with majority legislative approval in both the House of Representatives and the Senate," Eyman said. "You're not accountable to the people! They can't out of office for doing things that could be found to be improper."
The ferry system faces an operating budget deficit between 2011 and 2013 of $37 million. On the capital side, the system will have no money to pay for ongoing capital costs (new ferries, repairs, terminals) after 2013.
"The ferry system is not financially sustainable at its current level of service and hasn't been for some time," WSDOT assistant secretary David Moseley told the commission. "It would not be even with a 2.5 percent increase."
The state legislature assumed a 2.5 percent across-the-board fare increase when it wrote the state's budget revenue target for 2011 last year.