House budget writer Rep. Timm Ormsby (center), D-Spokane, speaks as he sits with council executive director Steve Lerch (left) and Sen. John Braun (right) R- Centralia, during a meeting of the Washington state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council on Wednesday at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

House budget writer Rep. Timm Ormsby (center), D-Spokane, speaks as he sits with council executive director Steve Lerch (left) and Sen. John Braun (right) R- Centralia, during a meeting of the Washington state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council on Wednesday at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Revenue forecast brings good news for Washington lawmakers

An unexpected jump in estate taxes, along with property taxes, were cited as reasons for the bounty.

  • Wednesday, February 19, 2020 11:26am
  • Northwest

By Rachel La Corte / Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Washington lawmakers received good news Wednesday with the state’s latest revenue forecast showing they have significantly more money to work with as they prepare to unveil their supplemental state budget proposals.

The numbers released at a meeting of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council showed state revenues look to increase by about $606 million more than expected through the middle of the current two-year budget cycle that ends mid-2021, with total revenues topping out at about $52.3 billion. The state is projected to have about $4.1 billion in total reserves in that time frame.

About half of the revenue increase was due to an unexpected increase in estate taxes. Steve Lerch, executive director of the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, said that confidentiality laws prevent him from disclosing how many estates, or which ones, were involved.

The projections for the next two-year budget that ends mid-2023 also increased by about $536 million, pushing the state’s total revenues for that cycle up to about $55.7 billion.

House Democrats have said their supplemental budget proposal will be released early next week, and Democrats in the Senate will follow with their own proposal.

Democratic Rep. Timm Ormsby, a member of the council and the chief budget writer for the House, said homelessness and housing, early learning and mental health will all benefit from the updated forecast.

“It’s certainly good news,” he said. “We’re going to be able to make improvements.”

Republican members of the council said that among the areas lawmakers should use the extra revenue on is to provide tax cuts

Republican Rep. Ed Ocutt noted that the next largest chunk of the revenue increase came from property taxes.

“I think the housing market has outperformed what any of us expected,” he said. “Because of this additional revenue being generated by property taxes we should be looking at some property tax relief.”

Once the Democratic-led Senate and House have both released and passed their budget proposals out of their respective chambers, they will work on negotiating a final budget. The current 60-day legislative session is set to end March 12.

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