Editorials call for June special session to trim state budget. WRC analyzes public employment in last recession.

The pandemic lockdown has plunged the economy into recession. The job losses are enormous. Business face a tough road to recovery. Some won’t make it. And tax revenues to support government services are plummeting. Given all that, The Seattle Times and Walla Walla Union-Bulletin editorial boards have called for a June special legislative session to address the fiscal crisis.

The Seattle Times editorial states,

Washington’s Legislature should convene in a June special session to immediately reduce state spending.

This is painful. Important programs will be trimmed. But with state revenue falling by perhaps $7 billion because of the pandemic-driven economic shutdown, there is simply no choice.

Everything must be on the table as taxpayers across Washington struggle, including reopening state employee contracts to reflect new economic realities. Contracts include a 3% raise for state employees, after a 3% raise last year.

Read the whole thing. The editorial quotes a key legislative leader.

House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, who has experience making difficult cuts in state and local government during earlier downturns, said it well: “What I’ve always seen is, the earlier you act, the less deep your cuts have to be,” the Tacoma Democrat told this editorial board Thursday.

The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin editorial states,

It’s time for reasoned debate on how to reduce state government spending as declining sales tax revenue in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic is busting the budget.

In addition, it’s time for senators and representatives — elected to represent the people — to weigh in on plans continuing reopenning the state from the original lockdown.

The U-B also quotes a key legislative leader.

“The Legislature has been kept on the sidelines for more than two months while the governor exercised emergency powers long past the time when his original goal of ‘flattening the curve’ was realized and hospital resources were not overwhelmed,” said Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, in a statement Thursday. “… It is time for the legislative branch to intervene.”

The June 17 revenue forecast will provide a better indication of the severity of the problem.

Meanwhile, Congress remains divided on the size or timing of another financial aid package. The Associated Press reports,

The House’s staggering $3 trillion package is mothballed in the Senate, but Republicans are focused instead on ending the pandemic’s stay-home economy by trimming unemployment benefits to push some of 41 million suddenly jobless Americans back to work when jobs return…

Deadlines are fast approaching. Most states have budget deadlines with the new fiscal year starting July 1.

Governing magazine reports,

State and local officials are well aware that they face the most dire fiscal circumstances in decades. They still don’t know just how bad it will be.

Governing reporter Alan Greenblatt writes, 

Most forecasters are projecting a sharp uptick in economic growth this summer, following the coronavirus-induced cliff, but no one can be sure of the size of the possible rebound. Another round of federal aid may come, but there’s no guarantee at this point.

All that adds up to spending cuts. Already, nearly 1 million state and local jobs have been lost.

A new analysis from the Washington Research Council reports on job losses and compensation reductions in state government in the Great Recession,

During the Great Recession, the state negotiated pay cuts for state employees. Additionally, state and K–12 employees lost jobs. Post-recession, the number of both K–12 employees and state employees funded by the operating budget rebounded. On a per capita basis, the numbers of state employees funded by the operating and capital budgets have not recovered. But K–12 employment is up in the post-recession period even when considered on a per-pupil basis.

Read the brief analysis for important detail. As Speaker Jinkins stated, the sooner you make the necessary adjustments, the better.