Fiscal restraint urged as lawmakers move to finalize budget in final weeks of session.

Resolving the differences between the state budgets adopted by the House and Senate will not be easy. As we wrote in yesterday’s newsletter, the proposals rely on different tax proposals (though neither chamber has committed with a floor vote) and differ in spending levels. Both, however, require new taxes and increase spending considerably.

The Washington Research Council summarizes,

As passed by the Senate, the budget would appropriate $52.181 billion. That’s $753.6 million less than the budget passed by the House. (It’s $1.143 billion less than the House budget if you include the $389.6 million the House would spend on higher education and career connected learning from a new … account.)

The Association of Washington Business writes,

Both chambers’ proposed budgets represent a significant increase in spending over the previous state budget at a time when lawmakers should be preparing the state for the inevitable economic downturn. By comparison, the 2017-19 budget was roughly $44 billion.

Splitting the difference – and tried and occasionally valid method of budget compromise – would in this instance come with a heightened risk to state finances.

Columnist and former president of the Association of Washington Business Don Brunell warns of the problems.

The budget may not be sustainable even with a substantial increase in taxes. It may force legislators to return to the state Capitol to cut workers, programs and services; or, even hike taxes yet again.

He notes that it has happened in the past and points to the warning flags already in sight, including a likely slowdown in the aerospace industry and the cooling of the national economy.

Before heading home later this month, lawmakers should do an 11th hour reassessment of the budget and the revenues with which they plan to balance the new budget. It would be better to adjust it now, rather than later in a special session.

There’s time to reassess.