As I understand it, back in the day the state took it over from the mosquito fleet due to the violence and racketeering that took place in the private sector over who ran ferries, who got to compete etc. Guess it got out of hand so the state stepped in and instead of adjudicating as they should have, saw a profit and usurped it.
Least that's the way it was explained to me - likely I have some of that wrong.
Living on Whidbey Island, we can sometimes be more dependent on the ferry so this is a little closer to home, especially since we've had to go without before. There apparently WAS money in a fund to build new ferries in this state until our esteemed governor took it for other things. Then when our ferries got beached due to safety issues, we had nothing and state gov had to panic and scramble, got us little bathtub toy ferries (keel-less lake ferries on one of the roughest runs in the state!) until they could come up with a solution for their lack of foresight.
Now apparently they want us to trust them again. Bull, I say. Balance our budget, then show you know how to manage our budget, then we'll talk about trusting you again.