TVW Update

Lawmakers facing budget shortfall, say Initiative 1351 ‘creates a problem’

Economic forecasters said Wednesday the state is on track to collect $36.9 billion in the next two-year budget cycle, about $275 million more than they previously forecasted.

But it is still not enough to cover current government services and K-12 education obligations. Lawmakers will be facing about a $2.2 billion dollar shortfall for the 2015-17 budget.

Initiative 1351, a new measure approved by voters to reduce class sizes, added a significant cost to the budget projections — costing about $2 billion during the same budget cycle.

“If you look at the outlook as it stands today, we’re $2 billion short which matches pretty close to 1351,” said Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond.

“Overall, 1351 creates a problem. But if you take that out of the equation, it is kind of what we expected,” Hill said.

He said it is “too soon to tell” if the Legislature will vote to suspend the initiative. It would require a two-third supermajority vote of the Legislature to change a voter-approved initiative.

“I think we have to figure out, do we have two-thirds to change an initiative that just got passed by the people? There’s typically a lot of reluctance to change those,” said Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina.

Hunter noted the budget doesn’t include collective bargaining agreements for state employees “who have had a 15 percent reduction in real salaries in last six years,” nor does it include half of the state’s McCleary obligations. Looking ahead, the state can expect a $4.7 billion dollar gap by the end of 2019, he said.

Gov. Jay Inslee will propose a budget in December. The House and Senate will each release budget proposals during the 2015 legislative session.

Read the budget outlook from the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. Watch today’s meeting below:

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