A bargain too good to resist?

There are times when principles make you sit on your checkbook. And then there are bargains that seem too good to pass up.

It seems a third Olympic-class ferry is just such a good deal.

The Legislature ended its session without producing a state transportation plan. After prolonged negotiations, the ultimate roadblock was a list of so-called reforms demanded by the Senate’s GOP-dominated Majority Coalition.

In the name of government accountability, these senators were willing to neglect vital transportation needs unless they were are allowed to impose financial and operating strictures on state projects and the bureaucracies that oversee them. Their demands included everything from fast-tracking engineering and environmental reviews to earmarking all transportation sales-tax revenues for transportation projects.

This was the right thing to do, they declared, because the Department of Transportation had run amok on projects like the 520 bridge and Seattle’s tunnel.

Not everyone agreed this was a productive approach to constructing roads, interchanges and transit infrastructure, but few doubted the Majority’s Coalition’s commitment to principles.

Then the ferry proposal floated onto the scene.

Vigor Industrial of Seattle already was building two 144-vehicle vessels for Washington State Ferries. If the state ordered a third ferry now, it could buy it at current prices. So, a search began for the necessary $123 million.

The solution came in a House bill that tacked a $5 service fee on vehicle registrations and a $12 fee on title transfers. The fees will go into an account used for procuring ferries.

Now, the state’s ferry system is not exempt from questions about things like overtime costs or its purchase of cock-eyed Kwa-di Tabil-class vessels. Eastern Washington representatives grumble that Spokane taxpayers subsidize Puget Sound passengers; one rural Southwest Washington legislator suggests that “rich people who choose to live on islands” should buy their own ferries.

Yet, this bill sailed smoothly through the Senate and passed the House easily on a somewhat partisan vote. How in the name of accountability did this happen?

Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima (and chief among transportation “reformers”), explained: “We needed to keep building that third ferry because it saves us millions of dollars, building three in a row.”

No critique of the ferry system’s track record. Barely a murmur about the fact that these new fees are permanent and won’t go away once the cost of the third ferry is covered.

Those cable TV shopping channels really know how to overcome buyer resistance: “Act now on this special one-time offer!”

More in Opinion

States’ report puts voter fraud claims in proper perspective

Editorial: A review by the state shows questionable ballots by only 74 of 3.36 million votes cast.

Editorial cartoons for Wednesday, Sept. 20

Editorial cartoons for Wednesday, Sept. 20… Continue reading

Burbank: Underfunding college shifts burden. debt to students

A student at EvCC pays about $19,000 for tuition and other costs, 72 percent of per capita income.

Parker: No Labels backs a strengthening centrist movement

Its policy arm, The New Center, is aiming for mature, practical and (refreshingly) boring.

Milbank: One Trump lawyer has a Cobbsian talent for errors

Lawyer Ty Cobb, like the baseball great he’s named for, is prone to errors that help the other team.

KSER public radio needs support during fund drive

Public radio covers local news and community events, all types of music,… Continue reading

Auditor’s decision on Eyman statement was reasonable

This letter is in regard to Tim Eyman’s contested dismissal of a… Continue reading

Letter’s headline misstated intent of writer

Regarding my recent letter to the editor regarding the pardon or former… Continue reading

How is it a hardship to report income for EITC?

Let me see if I understood Catherine Rampell’s Sept. 14 column correctly… Continue reading

Most Read