A forecast for spending, a new maximum for campaign contributions

It’s Day 66. Here’s what’s happening in the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

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2023 Washington Legislature, Day 66 of 105

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, March 15, 2023 — Welcome to Wednesday. Time to sharpen pencils, dig out an abacus, or simply refresh your spreadsheet skills. Budgets are coming. Next week.

Lawmakers will first learn how much money they’ll have to spend.

On that front, the news is positive. Tax collections between Feb. 11 and March 10 were $110 million above expectations. Revenue is up nearly $200 million above projections in the November revenue forecast.

Certainly it’s not boom time. Jobs are getting created even as the unemployment rate ticked upward, according to a report issued Tuesday. Among retailers, food and beverage stores saw an increase in business while furniture and home furnishings sectors saw a drop.

Signs are mostly good with the next state revenue forecast coming out at 2 p.m. Monday.

It will provide majority Democrats in the House and Senate with the numbers they need to fill the final blanks of their respective two-year operating budget proposals. Those plus transportation and capital spending plans will be released next week. Bookmark fiscal.wa.gov to find them.

Maxing out will cost more

Political donors can expect to get tapped a little harder very soon.

Starting April 1, contribution limits are rising. The Public Disclosure Commission adjusted them upward for inflation.

Individuals will be able to give up to $1,200 per election — $2,400 if you give for a primary and a general — to candidates for legislative and local offices. The current maximum is $1,000 per election, $2,000 per cycle.

Limits for statewide and judicial races will rise from $2,000 to $2,400 per election. That means you could fork out nearly $5,000 for a gubernatorial candidate in 2024.

Candidates who choose the mini-reporting option will be able to raise and spend up to $7,000. Right now it is $5,000.

You may see a few less contributor names. Only those who give at least $100 will be identified. Right now the threshold is $25.

Decode this

When premiums for your home or auto insurance rise, state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler says you’re owed a clear explanation. On Tuesday, he set out to require you get one.

His proposed regulation would require insurance companies explain increases to policyholders in language they can understand.

“This is pretty basic information you should expect from your insurance company, but we hear from hundreds of consumers every year who cannot get a straight answer on why they’re being charged more,” Kreidler said in a statement.

Kreidler’s team followed up on a few consumer complaints. They got more detailed answers. Price hikes arise from a slew of factors. Sometimes it’s not easy to pinpoint precisely which factor is to blame for a bump, state agency staff heard.

Under the rule, from June 1, 2024, to June 1, 2027, if a premium increase occurs at the time of a renewal, insurance companies must give a policyholder a reasonable explanation. After that, they may have to explain it in writing.

Insurers frowned at the move. They said they want to be forthcoming and ensure customers understand what’s going on, but this could make things worse.

“These regulations would make the rate filing process in Washington more complicated for the industry and OIC (Office of Insurance Commission) staff that have the duty to review filings. This regulation has the real potential to delay the approval of rate filings, which will delay the availability of insurance products to consumers,” said Nicole Ganley, assistant vice president, public affairs for the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.

A public hearing on the rule is set for April 25.

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