Columbian editorial: State budget includes “a bit of wishful thinking represented by unsustainable spending increases”

The editorial board of The Columbian has weighed in on the recent state revenue forecast. The editorial expresses some of the same sustainability concerns we and others have raised. 

The state revenue forecast released last week provides some perspective on the 2019-21 operating budget passed by this year’s Legislature. The gist: Revenues (meaning tax collections) are projected to reach a record level over the next two years, and yet they still would not cover the biennial budget approved by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Although the editorial board likes some of the new spending included in the $52.4 billion budget (and who wouldn’t?), they cite the incontestable fiscal reality: It’s a budget rife with risk.

The hope is that those people will continue to enjoy a robust economy. We would have firm confidence in that happening, but President Donald Trump’s policies are disconcerting, particularly for our state. Indeed, Trump has effectively continued the economic growth that began during the Obama administration, but his protectionist trade policies are troubling.

That’s just part of it. We’d add concerns with the aging of the recovery, Brexit, a shortage of qualified workers, election uncertainty and just plain old cyclicality. The editorial’s conclusion rings true:

While the biennial budget reflects a veritable wish list of good ideas, it also includes a bit of wishful thinking represented by unsustainable spending increases. And from that perspective, there is reason for concern.