Revenue projections for Washington higher than expected

By Rachel La Corte / Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Lawmakers on Thursday received a revenue forecast that shows they have a little more money to work with as the Senate and House prepare to release their budget proposals in the coming weeks.

The latest Office of Financial Management numbers that were released at a meeting of the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council shows found that the state’s revenue collections through the middle of 2019 are expected to increase by about $571 million — with $313 million more than originally forecast for the upcoming 2017-2019 budget and $258 million more for the current two-year budget through the end of June. The projected overall state budget for 2017-19 is expected to be $41.6 billion.

The Legislature is just past the halfway point of its scheduled 105-day regular session. Senate Republicans are set to release their budget proposal next week, while House Democrats are expected to release their plan the following week.

Any final budget will have to satisfy the state Supreme Court, which has held the state in contempt for a lack of progress on fully fund education.

The court has given the state until Sept. 1, 2018 to comply with its initial 2012 ruling on the issue, but it has ordered that a plan must be in place before the Legislature adjourns this year.

There are differing ideas between the politically divided chambers on how best to proceed, with Democrats seeking more revenue and Republicans saying new taxes are not needed.

Republican Sen. John Braun, a member of the council and the Senate’s main budget writer, said that latest revenue forecast gives lawmakers additional opportunities for additional investments, or possible tax reductions.

“Now we have a little bit more money, we’ll do our best to present a case that does good things for the state of Washington,” he said. “I remain confident that we do not need additional revenue.”

But Democratic state Rep. Timm Ormsby, a fellow member of the council and chairman of the House Appropriations committee, disagreed, citing the state’s obligations not only on education funding, but in other areas like mental health.

When asked what type of revenue could be involved, he wouldn’t give specifics, pointing instead to the yet-to-be-unveiled House budget, saying “I think we have a lot of options.”

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