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"Kitsap Transit looks to MVET, gasoline to fund passenger ferries"

"While Kitsap Transit is willing to ask voters for a sales tax increase to restore bus services and continue capital projects, the idea of an additional tax increase to fund passenger-only ferry operations is onerous enough to send officials looking for other options.Among those, Kitsap Transit Director Dick Hayes has suggested utilizing a regional motor vehicle excise tax.We've been working with the transit board and the (transportation policy) committee and they, like others, are kind of horrified at the tax level for passenger ferries, Hayes said.Passenger ferries are classified as a high-capacity service and are therefore eligible under Initiative 695 for motor vehicle excise tax money. In counties with between 210,000 and 1 million people that do not border a county with a population of a million or more, transit agencies can establish high capacity transit service, according to state law, by forming a regional policy committee with proportional representation from each area.Sound Transit, a high-capacity transit service comprising the western halves of Snohomish, King and Pierce counties, expects $50.3 million in MVET money out of a total $344.2 million to be collected during 2000.Kitsap Transit could ask voters for up to 5 percent of motor vehicle excise tax money without changing any laws, Hayes said. Asking for a share of the MVET might also save voters from having to choose between the ferries and more sales tax. Everybody, I think, agrees that sales tax is getting too high, Hayes said.Another potential approach might be to ask voters to extend the sales tax to gasoline. There is currently no sales tax collected on gasoline, Hayes said.Though there are some legal issues surrounding extending the sales tax to gasoline, the revenue generated could be used for roads and regular transit as well as high-capacity transit. There's flexibility in how to fund ... Historically, there has been interest in the region on a tax (that's) not restricted. One tax that would meet that standard would be to extend the sales tax to gasoline, Hayes said. Present discussions on potential funding options are just explorations, Hayes said. The recently formed Joint Ferry Task Force will continue to examine funding options and present recommendations to legislators during the session.Any changes in funding will have to be approved by voters, Hayes said. Although current timelines are only tentative, November 2001 would be ideal, he said. "

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