Tag: Jeff Morris
By John Stark
State Rep. Jeff Morris, D-40th, has introduced legislation that he says would finance construction of a new state ferry by changing state policy on vehicle tab fees.
If you’re in the habit of getting your new vehicle tabs via the Whatcom County Auditor’s office, either online or in person, Morris’s H.B. 1129 will raise your renewal cost by $5 a year.
Here’s the deal: Under current law, private businesses that offer vehicle tab renewal processing are entitled to add a $5 service charge to your cost, and the businesses get to keep that money. No such fee is charged at the Auditor’s office here or elsewhere in the state.
But if the county auditors also tack on a $5 fee and forward that money to the state, the added revenue could amount to $15.6 million per biennium for the state’s Capital Vessel Replacement account, Morris says.
The state has already funded construction of two new ferries. Morris says the added license tab money would enable the state to build a third one. He argues that building the third boat now, when Vigor Shipyards already is mobilized to build two other ones, would be cheaper than building the third one later.
Legislative staffer Quinn Majeski said it would be up to the Washington Department of Transportation to decide where the third ferry is most needed.
Read the full text of the bill by clicking here.
Here’s the press release from Morris:
OLYMPIA – A new proposal by Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, would provide funding for the construction of a third new ferry for the Washington Department of Transportation by making a required fee for small businesses applicable to government-run operations as well.
“22 million people ride the Washington Ferry System each year, and many of them live in the 40th legislative district. We cannot continue relying on 60 year old boats to get people to and from work and school every day,” stated Rep. Morris.
Morris’s legislation, HB 1129, would match the five dollar vehicle licensing fee currently being paid by small business owners with a five dollar fee on licenses issued by county auditors, generating roughly $15.6 million per biennium. The state would then bond against that revenue stream, supporting a fund of about $110 million that would go towards constructing a third 144-car ferry.
The bills would also ensure that the public and private sectors are treated equally in the vehicle licensing industry. Right now the five dollar fee only applies to businesses, while county auditors – who can also issue vehicle licenses – are exempt.
“The discrepancy in fees between what customers pay at our shops and what they pay the at auditors’ offices undercuts the private market,” said Charlene Winzler, President of the Washington Association of Vehicle Subagents. “This legislation would help small businesses across Washington, equalize government and small business, and provide money for an important state service.”
The state has already budgeted money to contract with Vigor Shipyards for the construction of two new ferries, with the option to construct up to two additional boats. This bill would provide the funding to build a much needed third ferry while saving taxpayers from paying additional startup costs down the road.
“It’s an issue of economies of scale. There are a lot of upfront costs associated with setting up the manufacturing line and processes that need to be ironed out. We know a number of our ferries will need to be replaced in the coming years; let’s not pay those upfront costs twice,” said Morris.
State Rep. Jeff Morris has never been one to shy away from the nuts and bolts of any complex issue, especially where energy policy is concerned.
In fact, in an age of bumper-sticker rhetoric, Morris seems to enjoy delving into the complexity of an issue.
Here’s Morris, via YouTube, explaining why we must build energy storage systems if we’re serious about increasing reliance on renewable energy sources such as wind, hydro, and solar. The electricity output from all those renewable sources naturally fluctuates, he says. That means we need storage systems to maintain the power supply.
State Rep Jeff Morris has taken issue with last week’s post about his plans for funding a new Center for Marine Innovation.
Via a message on Facebook, Morris said he is changing the language in HB 2444 to remove the funding source he originally proposed: $150,000 from a state recreation resources account funded with taxes on boat fuel. Boaters say that money is supposed to pay for boat launches and similar facilities.
He said his original funding proposal for the center was no more than a “placeholder” to get the legislative process started.
Washington state boaters are bombarding State Rep. Jeff Morris and State Sen. Kevin Ranker with complaints, after the two men unveiled plans to use taxes and fees on boaters to help pay for a proposed new Center for Marine Innovation.
Morris’s plan, HB 2444, would shift $150,000 from the Recreation Resources Account that gets money from boaters’ fuel taxes. Those taxes would not be raised. But Recreational Boaters of Washington is asking members to express their opposition to the measure, because as they see it the money is supposed to be used for boating facilities, such as launch ramps.
Morris said he has heard their complaints, but he thinks that the shift is a reasonable use for a small part of the money from the $17 million fund.
He said the proposed new center should benefit boaters. Among other things, it will be charged with finding solutions to the ethanol fuel headache that boaters often complain about. Ethanol added to gasoline can cause problems in marine engines because it attracts water, Morris said. Despite that, even the gasoline sold at marine fueling stations often contains enough ethanol to cause problems for some boaters.
The new center would also help to focus the state’s ongoing efforts to support the marine trades industry that is an important job-creator in northwest Washington, Morris said.
Ranker’s bill, SB 6264, takes a different approach. His bill would add an additional $1 to the cost of each boat registration.
“I know they (boaters) are unhappy with Kevin’s funding source and they are unhappy with mine,” Morris said.
Even if Washington state voters approve a half-cent sales tax hike, the gap between state spending and revenue will continue to grow in the years ahead without major reforms, according to an analysis on the Washington State Wire.
No, this is not a report cranked out by the Republican Party. It relies mostly on numbers-crunching from State Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup.
I was alerted to it (via Facebook) by State Rep. Jeff Morris, the Democrat who represents the 40th District that includes a portion of Whatcom County and Bellingham.
The report does a good job of identifying the problems, but to me it seems cloudy on potential solutions. Kastama recommends eliminating voter-approved reductions in K-12 class size–but notes that those reductions mostly have not been funded. If that’s the case, how does eliminating them save money?
UPDATE: Here’s an explanation of the impact of eliminating the class size reduction measures from Jason Mercie, director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center. His emailed remarks are in italics:
Re eliminating I-728/732 and saving money; note the impact the measures have on the six-year budget outlook released by OFM: http://www.governor.wa.gov/priorities/reform/outlook.pdf
According to the Governor, with I-728/732 included in the budget in future years the state will continue to face multi-billion dollar shortfalls. Without them, the budget is projected to be balanced in future years assuming 4.5% per year revenue growth.
Since funding was not identified for I-728/732 (other than surplus funds) when originally adopted and the measures were subsequently suspended during tough budget times, voters were asked in 2004 to approve I-884 and in 2010 to approve I-1098 to pay in-part for the policies of I-728 and I-732. Both measures were overwhelming rejected statewide.
Another problem mentioned in the Washington State Wire analyis is the rising cost of health care. You probably heard about that. What is the legislature supposed to do about this problem? (I’m not saying they can’t do anything. I just want to know what they might do.)
The Business Roundtable chimes in with a suggestion that the state increase its rainy day fund. Great idea. And the money for that comes from…?
Getting into the spirit of budgetary austerity, 40th District Democratic State Rep. Jeff Morris has announced he has chosen to forgo the daily expense money that he and all legislators were entitled to collect during the recently concluded special session of the Legislature.
The expense money is known as “per diem.”
Here’s the press release from Morris:
OLYMPIA- As special session comes to a close in Olympia, Representative Jeff Morris (D-Mount Vernon) has volunteered to forego his per diem allowance. Rep. Morris will pay for his own expenses. This will save the House of Representatives and taxpayers $1,710.
“It’s no secret that times are incredibly challenging in our state. When we are asking our state employees to tighten their belts, it is important that we lead by example” said Rep. Morris.
Since the Washington State Legislature operates on a part-time basis, citizen legislators are given a daily allowance for housing and meals at $90 per day when the Legislature is in session. In comparison, the federal government allowance is $149 per day for the Olympia area.
End press release
State Rep. Jeff Morris, 40th District Democrat, has emailed us his thoughts on the U.S.-Canada border security deal announced Wednesday, Dec. 7.
“Today’s down economy has forced us to look for new and innovative ways to create jobs and increase economic growth. When discussing strategies for increasing trade, almost no one thinks of the most obvious trading relationship poised for the most growth in the short term: the U.S. – Canada market.
“Consider the following facts: More than $1.6 billion in goods and services, as well as 300,000 people cross the Canadian/U.S. border every day – that’s over a million dollars a minute. More than 8 million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Canada, with over 360,000 jobs in the five northwest states alone. Canada is the most important foreign export destination for 34 U.S. states, and Canada buys more goods and services from the United States than Germany and China combined. Finally, in 2010 the increase in exports to Canada alone was greater than all U.S. trade with Brazil, double all U.S. trade with India, and triple all U.S. trade with Russia.
“These numbers point to an excellent opportunity to look to our neighbor to the North to increase jobs and enhance our economic recovery. In February 2011, President Obama and Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a joint declaration on border management and regulatory cooperation. Both leaders recognize the interdependence of our economies and the need to work together to improve trade and enhance security. Simple regulatory barriers often play a role in discouraging companies from venturing north.
“A basic example of a specific regulatory barrier is the fact that the U.S. and Canada have different standards on gas tank sizes in automobiles. This is troubling on many fronts, especially since a car is often shipped across the border as many as eight times during the manufacturing process. While this is only one of many, it illustrates the need for a process to address these types of issues. Harmonizing specific regulatory standards makes sense in that it will reduce costs and also help open up the market to products that have been limited to domestic markets in the past.
“The Beyond the Border and Regulatory Cooperation Council Action Plan was recently released to begin to take concrete steps to reduce some of these inconsistencies between our two nations. The joint action plan was developed through a coordinated consultative process and is intended to produce specific outcomes and timelines to improve border security and enhance economic cooperation by reducing regulatory irritants that hinder trade. It outlines specific steps the U.S. and Canada are working on to better partner in trade, provide better security in a risk based approach, and make it easier for legitimate goods and travel to take place between our two countries.
“The Action Plan lays out a structure with responsibilities and timelines for success. It is a beginning, not an end, and it will require leadership on both sides of the border to implement innovative solutions that challenge the status quo. It also serves as a much needed reminder that we must work collaboratively with stakeholders to build solutions for the future that make all of our businesses more competitive in the global marketplace. I applaud the leadership of President Obama and Prime Minister Harper and look forward to see many innovative solutions designed, built, and implemented here in the Pacific Northwest.”