Business Leaders: “The Legislature should look beyond the next two years and protect against an economic slowdown.”

With tomorrow’s revenue forecast, the Legislature begins the public phase of budget writing. In the Everett Herald, Association of Washington Business president Kris Johnson and Washington Roundtable president Steve Mullin advise lawmakers to think long term. They liken the state’s extraordinary revenue growth over the past few years to a windfall.

Imagine winning the lottery tomorrow. You’d have $10 million to spend on whatever you wanted in an instant.

Of course, the prudent thing would be to get a financial adviser and plan for the future. Ensure you have a strong foundation and adequate savings, then decide what you can splurge on.

The two business leaders point out that the state has already increased spending substantially. As the Washington Research Council reports, over the last decade spending has grown 44 percent. Mullin and Johnson write,

As it stands now, the state could not sustain current program levels if another recession were to hit. The Legislature spent almost all of the state’s extraordinary revenue growth during the past few budget cycles.

While tomorrow’s forecast will clarify expectations, it’s worth noting that economists expect a recession to begin sometime in the next two years. 

Given the uncertainty, Johnson and Mullin recommend lawmakers exercise caution and restraint in drafting the next budget.

Layering on additional, unsustainable spending and further burdening employers could prove short-sighted when the economy slows and Washington is left with inadequate reserves, unable to pay for what was promised, attract new investment or spur job creation.

Let’s use our lottery winnings wisely. The Legislature should look beyond just the next two years and work to protect against an economic slowdown that is sure to come.

Sound advice.