Legislative push appears to run out of gas

By Meg Olson

Legislation to loosen up how Point Roberts and other border towns can spend their gas tax dollars appears to be stalled in the state legislature, and members of the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) are urging people to write to their elected representatives.

For the past two years, PRCAC, along with the taxpayers and voters associations, has been pursuing a small change in state code that could allow a more flexible use of the funds for more than just “road construction and maintenance” and would include a wider range of transportation-related projects.

At the top of the group’s list is a late-afternoon bus from Blaine schools so local students can participate in team sports and other extracurricular activities.

“This would really be fantastic for those kids and families,” said PRCAC chair Joel Lantz.

Blaine school district doesn’t have the funds for the bus but has agreed to run it if the county-collected Point Roberts gas tax could be used, according to Point Roberts Taxpayers Association president Mark Robbins. Currently the tax is collecting approximately $8,000 per month, said former PRCAC chair Arthur Reber, and approximately $750,000 is in the Point Roberts Transportation Benefit District (TBD) fund. The cost for the school district to make the bus available and operate the service is estimated at $25,000 annually.

“This year they wrote up the bill, they got the sponsors, it went to the transportation committees of both chambers, and then it just kind of got stuck,” Robbins reported at the March 10 PRCAC meeting. “It’s such a simple bill. It doesn’t hurt anybody, it doesn’t change a tax; it simply gives the TBD more flexibility.”

Robbins said it was especially frustrating because with county council endorsing the proposal and the Whatcom Council of Governments providing the services of their lobbyist to promote the change, it was simply legislative inertia keeping the bill from moving forward. “The problem is the support is waning and it’s sort of fizzling out,” he said.

“Write your elected representative,” Lantz said. State senator Doug Ericksen is sponsoring the Senate bill and can be reached at doug@senatorericksen.com.

Freshman representative Luanne Van Werven is sponsoring the bill in the House of Representatives and can be reached at luanne.vanwerven@leg.wa.gov.

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