Preventing tax increases on boaters, protecting a fund used for boating improvements and relaxing the rules for cruising permits are among priorities the Northwest Marine Trade Association will be pursuing next year.
The NMTA’s government affairs committee recently identified a list of five priorities for Washington’s next legislative session in January, based on a survey of NMTA members in June. The list includes the following:
Marine tourism bill – The proposed bill would change the rules for cruising permits so that visiting boats owned by out-of-state entities could stay longer. Under current law, boats owned by business entities from outside of Washington can remain only for 60 days, then must either leave or pay 10 percent of the boat’s value in sales tax.
Marine jobs bill – The proposed bill would cap sales tax on vessels at $300,000. The legislation would bring $9 million in annual revenue to the state and provide additional employment for maritime workers, an NMTA-commissioned study found.
Marina dock construction – The NMTA is lobbying to make it easier to build docks at marinas by exempting them from a permit if their project is under a certain dollar amount. Under current law, marinas must get a permit to build a dock if the cost is more than $2,500 in a saltwater area, and more than $10,000 in a freshwater marina. The dollars amount threshold for construction of freshwater docks has not been increased in 15 years.
Tax increases – Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed a 10 percent “luxury tax” on boats purchased at $50,000 or more. The NMTA opposes the measure and is also remaining watchful about a proposal made in 2010 to eliminate the trade-in deduction for boat purchases. The deduction allows boat owners who trade in their vessels for more expensive ones to pay sales tax only on the difference between the two prices, rather than on the total price of the more expensive boat.
Recreation and Resource Account (RRA) – The RRA is a voter-approved dedicated account aimed at improving boating access throughout the state. Funds from the account, which come from gas taxes paid by boaters, have been used for items such as installing boat ramps and improving bathrooms. The state diverted $3.3 million from the fund this year to help balance its budget, and previously swept $9 million from the RRA to its general fund during the 2009-2010 legislative session.
The five priorities were identified by NMTA as the most important out of a list of 15 in a survey conducted every two years. Issues that didn’t make the top five include creating a state Office of Boating, recalculating rents paid to the Department of Natural Resources for marine land, not raising petroleum taxes, keeping the watercraft excise tax in place and establishing a marine innovation center, among others.
Peter Schrappen, the NMTA’s director of government affairs, said the 2013 legislative session is more unpredictable than usual, given the upcoming election.
“It’s a long session, 105 days, with a new governor and a bunch of open seats,” he said. “It will be a new legislature, for the most part. There will be a lot of folks we haven’t worked with in the past.”