Boaters are being asked to urge Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire to veto plans to divert $3.3 million from a dedicated boating fund to help the state balance its budget.
The budget, passed by the Legislature and awaiting Gregoire’s signature, includes a $3.3 million raid on the gas taxes paid by boaters. That money is usually channeled into the state’s voter-approved Recreation Resource Account (RRA) and used to pay for launch ramps, mooring buoys, parking, restrooms and other infrastructure that supports Washington’s boating industry.
The RRA was established in 1964 through a voter-approved initiative and collects about $8 million every two years. Boaters can apply for a partial refund of their gas taxes, but most don’t.
“This is a dedicated fund that was set up by the voters independent of the legislature,” said Steve Greaves, first vice president of the Recreational Boating Association of Washington (RBAW).
“In a very real sense, it’s the boaters’ money. If the boaters want, they can ask for it back. They leave it there believing it’s going to be spent on infrastructure,” Greaves said.
“In my mind, it’s a breach of the public trust to not follow the directions of that initiative.”
And it’s not just boaters who benefit from the money, Greaves said. In some small towns, he said, public boat ramps are the primary draw for visitors who then provide economic benefits by buying groceries and gas, staying in motels and eating in local restaurants.
“Having a launch ramp is an investment in a little community,” he said. “In many cases, it’s why people go to a place.”
RBAW is asking boaters to contact the following representatives at Gregoire’s office and the state Office of Financial Management and ask them to respectfully urge the governor to veto the planned diversion of RRA funds:
- Betty Mackey – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jim Justin – email@example.com
- Marty Brown – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Julie Murray – email@example.com
Boaters can also call Gregoire’s office at 360.902.4111.
Since its inception, the RRA has provided grants for almost 650 projects across the state, totaling close to $200 million in overall investment, according to RBAW. The account has been used for its intended purpose every year but 2010, when it was swept into the state’s general fund.
Greaves said that diversion set a bad precedent.
“We think it’s much better to spend money where it’s intended to be spent rather than paying bills with it, which is what they’re planning to do,” he said.