Good News, For Once, From State Revenue Forecast

By Andrew Garber, March 20, 2013, Seattle Times

Budget writers got a rare dose of good news Wednesday. The latest tax-revenue projections show a net plus to the state’s bottom line.

A revenue forecast released Wednesday projects the state will take in $59 million more than expected in the current fiscal year and $19 million less over the next two years. Bottom line: Budget writers have an extra $40 million to work with.

Many legislators had privately expected a significant drop in projected revenue in part because of the automatic federal budget cuts, known as sequestration that kicked in earlier this month, and the expiration of federal payroll tax cuts.

While the situation is better than expected, the Legislature still has a big problem –- an overall budget shortfall of up to $1.3 billion and a state Supreme Court mandate to increase education funding. Estimates peg the cost of meeting the Supreme Court ruling at anywhere from an additional $500 million to $1.7 billion over the next two years.

The mid-session revenue forecast typically kicks off the serious negotiations to balance the state budget. The GOP-led majority in the Senate is expected to produce a budget proposal first, followed by the House. Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee also is expected to weigh in with a proposal, but has not set a date.

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