Gregoire proposes cuts to WSF service

Sidney route may be eliminated

On Dec. 18, Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed her 2009–11 state budget, closing a projected $5.7 billion shortfall through a combination of program reductions, suspension of state employee, teacher and care worker salary increases, pension changes, increased federal contributions and the use of the state’s rainy day fund.

Among those reductions was the recommendation to cut the level of service for all Washington State Ferries routes, including eliminating the Sidney run.

The new budget would take effect on July 1, 2009, and according to Ed Sutton, chair of the Ferry Advisory Committee for San Juan County, “since that service is about to be discontinued on Jan. 4, my guess would be that that service might not be restarted in the spring. What that means for us is that our domestic route will lose a boat year-round.”

Sutton continued, “We need to reassess our needs and work with the governor’s staff to recreate a service structure that addresses our most critical needs and be realistic about the overall level of service on a daily basis – and in a different context, a weekly basis and a seasonal basis.”

As of press time, the proposals from WSF were not yet online, but Sutton said it would include two alternatives. “Alternative A of the long-term plan is to continue as usual and incur a massive deficit in operations. Alternative B includes the cuts and more closely follows the Governor’s recommendations.”

Sutton attended a meeting in Seattle on Tuesday, Dec. 23 with various FAC groups when WSF presented them with details of its proposals. Look for a follow-up story in next week’s edition of the Islands’ Sounder.