Budgeting for Long-Term Sustainability Replaces Uncertainty with Stability

One of our Priorities for Shared Prosperities involves the state budget. Specifically, in our foundation report we wrote:

Priority III.B: Budget for long-term sustainability and prosperity

Why This Matters: Over time and throughout various economic conditions, the State of Washington has experienced cycles of boom-and-bust budgeting. Programs have been expanded during the good times — sometimes at rates exceeding the growth in revenues — and then sharply contracted in the downturn. That uncertainty has taken a toll on students, families, public employees, and those relying on public services. These fluctuations also directly impact the employer community as increased taxes and fees are often proposed to generate the additional revenues required to maintain these programs.

A commitment to sustainable budgeting replaces this uncertainty with stability, supporting long-range planning and assuring that a consistent level of vital services can be maintained in varying economic conditions.

Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business, writes in an op-ed for The News Tribune, that it’s important to hold on to the state’s four-year balanced budget requirement. He points out how the requirement promotes long-term sustainability.

Failing to look at the long-term consequences of today’s spending greatly increases the chances that lawmakers will end up looking at additional budget cuts – or raising taxes even higher – in the next budget.

Forcing lawmakers to look at the long-term consequences of their spending has proven to be a positive…This prudent approach to budgeting is good for lawmakers, taxpayers and the many vital programs on which we all rely. Legislators need to balance the state budget not only looking at today, but at the consequences tomorrow.

The Tri-Cities Herald editorial board also comments on the state budget.

In response to [the 2008 recession budget], which saw drastic cuts to many state programs, lawmakers adopted a four-year outlook requirement for the budget. This means lawmakers must not only budget for a two-year cycle, but they also must look ahead and balance the cost of continuing state programs over the next four years.

This approach makes complete sense and provides stability for government services. It also gets the state off the roller coaster, highs and lows of budgeting.

As lawmakers continue to negotiate a supplemental budget during this special session, we encourage them to consider the long-term effects of their decisions.