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AG informal opinion 12-20-10

AG informal opinion 12-20-10

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Published by: jordan_schrader on May 02, 2011
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05/02/2011

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December20,2010TheHonorablePamRoachSenator,District31POBox40431Olympia,WA98504-0431DearSenatorRoach:Byletterpreviouslyacknowledged,youhaverequestedanopiniononthefollowingquestion:
CantheTransportationCommissionraisetaxes,fares,fees,ortollswithoutavoteofthelegislature?
Bywayofbackground,youexplainthattheTransportationCommissioniscurrentlyconsideringaproposaltoincreasefaresfortheWashingtonStateFerries.Althoughyourquestionisframedinbroadertermsthanferryfaresalone,youspecificallyaskwhetherthetermsofInitiative1053(I-1053)wouldaffectthisproposal.'
BRIEFANSWER
Byenacting1-1053,thevotersamendedRCW43.135.055(1)torestatetherequirementthatfeescanonlybeimposedorincreased"ifapprovedwithmajoritylegislativeapprovalinboththehouseofrepresentativesandthesenate...."RCW43.135.055(1)(asamendedby1-1053,§5(1)).Coupledwiththestatementofvoterintentsetforth'in1-1053,RCW43.135.055(1)nowpermitstheimpositionorincreaseofafeeonlyifthelegislaturesoapprovesatsometimeaftertheeffectivedateof1-1053.Theinitiativeaccordinglyrenderedlegislativeapprovalgrantedbeforetheenactmentof1-1053insufficienttoauthorizetheincreaseorimpositionofafee.
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1
ThetextofI-I053isattachedforeaseofreference.
2
ThescopeofthisopinionislimitedtotheapplicationofRCW43.135.055(1)toactionsthatimposeneworincreasedfeestakingplaceaftertheeffectivedateof1-1053.TheconclusionisbaseduponthelanguageofI-1053anduponthelegislativeintentsetforthwithinthatmeasure.
 
HonorablePamRoachDecember20,2010Page2
ANALYSIS
Ibeginbyconsidering,insomedetail,theauthorityoftheTransportationCommissiontosetferryfares,aswellastheauthoritytosettollsforspecificroadsandbridges.Afterdoingso,IconsidertheeffectonthatauthorityofRCW43.135.055(1),asamendedbyI-1053.
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ThelegislaturehasdelegatedauthoritytotheTransportationCommissionto"adopt[ferry]faresandpricingpoliciesbyrule."RCW47.60.315(1)."Thecommissionmayincreaseferryfaresincludedinthescheduleofchargesadoptedunderthissectionbyapercentagethatexceedsthefiscalgrowthfactor."RCW47.60.315(3);
seealso
RCW47.56.032("Thecommissionshalldetermineallfares,tolls,andotherchargesforitsfacilitiesandshalldirectlyperformalldutiesandexerciseallpowersrelatingtofinancing,refinancing,andfiscalmanagementofthesystem'sbondedindebtednessinthemannerprovidedbylaw.").Thecurrentstatetransportationbudgetspecificallyapprovesincreasesinferryfaresduringthefiscalyearsitcovers:PursuanttoRCW43.135.055,duringthe2009-11fiscalbiennium,thetransportationcommissionshallperiodicallyreviewand,ifnecessary,modifythescheduleoffaresfortheWashingtonstateferrysystem.Thetransportationcommissionmayincreaseferryfares,exceptnofareschedulemodificationsmaybemadepriortoSeptember1,2009.Forpurposesofthissubsection,"modify"includesincreasesordecreasestotheschedule.Lawsof2010,ch.247,§205(1).ThelegislaturealsoauthorizedtheTransportationCommissiontoadopta"ferryfuelsurcharge"effectiveJuly1,2011.Lawsof2010,ch.247,§205(6).Thelegislature'Sgeneralapproachregardingtheimpositionoftollsonstatehighwaysandbridgeshasbeenforthelegislaturetodesignatespecifictransportationfacilitiesastollfacilities,andthentodelegatetotheTransportationCommissiontheactualsettingofthetolls.RCW47.56.031("Notollsmaybeimposedonneworexistinghighwaysorbridgeswithoutspecificlegislativeauthorizationoruponamajorityvoteofthepeoplewithintheboundariesoftheunitofgovernmentempoweredtoimposetolls.");RCW47.56.820("Unlessotherwise
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YouaskwhethertheTransportationCommissionhasthelegalauthoritytoraisetaxes,fares,fees,ortollswithoutavoteofthelegislature.Thosefourterms,"tax,""fare,""fee,"and"toll,"coverarangeofrevenuesources,buttheprocessforimposingataxisnotatissuewithregardtotheTransportationCommission.TheTransportationCommission'sauthorityincludestheauthoritytoimposeandincreasefaresandtolls.Thesearevarietiesoffees,assessedfortheuseof,forexample,ferries,bridges,orroads.
SeeStateexrel.PeninsulaNeighborhoodAss'nv.State,
142Wn.2d328,338,12P.3d134(2000)(equatingtollsanduserfees,andstatingthat"thefixingoftollsisanadministrativefunction").Accordingly,thisopinionconsiderstheauthorityoftheTransportationCommissiontoimposeorincreasefaresandtolls,butdoesnotconsidertheimpositionoftaxes.
 
HonorablePamRoachDecember20,2010Page3delegated,onlythelegislaturemayauthorizetheimpositionoftollsoneligibletollfacilities.");RCW47.56.030(1)(b)("Thetransportationcommissionshalldetermineandestablishthetollsandchargesthereon.");RCW47.56.240("ExceptasotherwiseprovidedinRCW47.56.850,thecommissionisherebyempoweredtofixtheratesoftollsandotherchargesforalltollbridgesbuiltunderthetermsofthischapter.Tollchargessofixedmaybechangedfromtimetotimeasconditionswarrant.").Thelegislaturehasdeclaredbystatutethat,"[ujnlessthesepowersareotherwisedelegatedbythelegislature,thetransportationcommissionisthetollingauthorityforthestate."RCW47.56.850(1).Thelegislaturehasdesignatedanumberofroadsandbridgesastollfacilities.Theseincludethelegislature'sdesignationoftheTacomaNarrowsBridgeandStateRoute167astollfacilities.RCW47.56.271(authorizingtollsattheTacomaNarrowsBridge);RCW47.56.403(authorizingapilotprojectofhighoccupancytolllanesonStateRoute167inKingCounty).AswiththeWashingtonStateFerryfaresdiscussedabove,thelegislaturehasspecificallyapprovedtollincreasesduringthisfiscalbienniumthroughthecurrentstatetransportationbudget:PursuanttoRCW43.135.055,duringthe2009-11fiscalbiennium,thetransportationcommissionshallperiodicallyreviewand,ifnecessary,modifythescheduleoftollchargesapplicabletotheTacomaNarrowsBridge,takingintoconsiderationtherecommendationsofthecitizenadvisorycommitteecreatedunderRCW47.46.091.Forpurposesofthissubsection,"modify"includesincreasesordecreasestotheschedule.Lawsof2010,ch.247,§205(3).Similarly:PursuanttoRCW43.135.055,duringthe2009-11fiscalbiennium,thetransportationcommissionshallperiodicallyreviewand,ifnecessary,modifythescheduleoftollchargesapplicabletothestateroutenumber167highoccupancytolllanepilotproject,asrequiredunderRCW47.56.403.Forpurposesofthissubsection,"modify"includesincreasesordecreasestotheschedule.Lawsof2010,ch.247,§205(2).In2009,thelegislaturealsodesignatedthe"stateroutenumber520corridor?"asatollfacility.RCW47.56.870(1).Bypermanentstatute,thelegislatureauthorizedtheTransportationCommissiontoset,andannuallyadjust,tollsfortheStateRoute520corridor:
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"Thestateroutenumber520corridorconsistsofthatportionofstateroutenumber520betweenthejunctionsofInterstate5andstateroutenumber202."RCW47.56.870(2).

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