Despite increase in state revenues, budget talks likely to go in 2nd special session

Yesterday’s revenue forecasts added more than $400 million to projected funds available to state budget writers. Yet, the two chambers remain far enough apart that most expect negotiations, should they commence soon, will require the governor to call a second special session. 

In the Seattle Times, Joseph O’Sullivan has a good account of where things stand.

The parallel universes Democrats and Republicans have inhabited over the writing of the state’s two-year operating budget don’t seem to be inching closer together.

…Democrats question some of the forecast’s assumptions, including the large amount of marijuana tax money it assumes, and say new revenue is still needed. Meanwhile, a trio of Republican senators argue that the state’s budget situation is so rosy, lawmakers can now cut business taxes.

Handling good news seems to be as difficult as accepting bad news.

But Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond and chief GOP budget writer, argued that the new revenue projection weakens Democrats’ case for raising taxes.

“At some point you have to say, ‘Holy cow, we have a lot of money,’ ” said Hill. “We should be able to get this job done very quickly.”

O’Sullivan reports a different reaction from Hill’s House counterpart.

The new revenue forecast “doesn’t completely solve the problem,” said Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, the Democrats’ chief budget writer.

Hunter raised concerns over whether the marijuana tax collections assumed in the forecast will pan out.

The first special session is scheduled to end in nine days, on May 28. The new fiscal year begins July 1. As the Columbian reports,

In Washington, special sessions, although technically meant to be “extraordinary,” are more just, well, ordinary.

Since 2000, lawmakers have held 18 special sessions; some years, there was more than one.

The Spokesman-Review gives the reaction of the state budget director

David Schumacher, director of the Office of Financial Management, said the additional revenue should make it easier for budget negotiators to find a middle ground. If the revenue projections had been this strong last Nov-ember, Gov. Jay Inslee would not have proposed the tax increases for his budget, and House Democrats likely would have had a smaller tax package also, Schumacher said.

The projected revenues from marijuana taxes remain a forecaster’s volatile variable. Nonetheless, in a phrase we don’t like very much, the forecast is what it is – the official number lawmakers rely on to write their budget. The revenue boost should make it easier to get that job done, though probably not by May 28.