Good news for state budget writers - today's revenue forecast has further increased projected revenue for the current and next budget by a combined $231 million for a total increase of more than $2 billion for 2013-15.
Though various reform bills proposed by the Senate have been pointed to by state Democrats and Governor Inslee as holding up a budget deal, the real sticking point continues to be whether to increase taxes despite the fact state revenues are currently projected to increase by $2 billion for the 2013-15 biennium (and may increase more at next week's Revenue Forecast).
Today is the last day of the 1st Special Session for lawmakers to finish work on the 2013-15 budget. So where do we stand? Here are the thoughts of House Majority Leader Rep. Sullivan (D) as quoted in The Olympian:
“We are still pretty far apart,” Sullivan said, noting that Gov. Jay Inslee had said last month that the chambers were light years apart. “I would say we are still somewhere out in space.’’
With it being all quiet on the Western Legislative Front, there is one date to keep in mind concerning the ongoing state budget negotiations: June 1.
While there are rumors that lawmakers may wait for the June 18 Revenue Forecast to see if the recent improvement in state economic activity can help bridge the budget divide, state law may make waiting that long a bit tricky.
While there isn't much news coming out of Olympia since the Special Session started on Monday there is one development that could hold huge implications for citizens going forward. At a media availability on Monday Senate Republican Leader Sen. Schoesler said that Senators may meet via teleconference to help keep cost down for members living out of the area.
A few lawmakers kicked off the first 30-day Special Session yesterday to finish work on the 2013-15 operating budget. At a press conference Governor Inslee said some progress had been made concerning the assumptions in the various budgets but that he was not in a position to disclose those assumptions needing to keep the "sanctity" of close-door budget negations intact.
With just four days to go in the 2013 Regular Session, lawmakers and the Governor are discussing the framework for the inevitable specials session(s). One difference this year from previous special sessions may be how tightly focused state officials' efforts and attention are.
Though we have serious concerns about the impact of the House Democrat's $1.3 billion tax increase proposal on the state's economy and jobs (nearly 10,000 private sector jobs could be lost), at least the public will actually have a chance to weigh in on the proposal.
With a special session all but guaranteed for the Legislature to finish its work on the 2013-15 budget, a simple bill being considered by the Senate Ways and Means Committee today could have a fundamental impact on future budget debates.
Introduced on Monday and heard for a public hearing on Tuesday, SB 5910 would move up the state's March revenue forecast to February in long sessions. The bill is scheduled for executive action in the Senate today.
Jason Mercier is Director of the Center for Government Reform at Washington Policy Center and is based in the Tri-Cities. He serves on the boards of the Washington Coalition for Open Government and CandidateVerification, and was an advisor to the 2002 Washington State Tax Structure Committee. Jason is an ex-officio for the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce. In June 2010, former Governor Gregoire appointed Jason as WPC’s representative on her Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Panel.