Legislative leaders react with caution to improved budget outlook.

Yesterday’s nearly $1 billion boost in revenue projections eased the budget task confronting state lawmakers. The Senate’s top budget writer, Sen. Christine Rolfes, released a brief statement acknowledging both the improved outlook and continuing challenge.

“This updated forecast will put the Legislature in a better position to meet the needs of struggling families and small businesses when we convene in January. Our state still has a lot of challenges ahead, which I’m confident we will continue to meet, and we continue to look to our federal government to help get us through these trying times.”

Rep. Timm Ormsby, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, also released a statement, sounding similar caution. In part, he says,

“Back in June, we expected the worst. With today’s news, we know it’s not as bad as expected and, while there are still difficult challenges ahead, our future budget decisions may be a little bit easier. But it doesn’t make the tough choices everyday families are facing any easier. And there’s still a degree of uncertainty moving forward.”

Sen. John Braun, the Republican budget lead, said that the federal government has already provided trillions of dollars in assistance. 

“Why aren’t we thankful for the help we’ve gotten and get off our hands and do something about our state, rather than relying on hope?” said Braun.

The Seattle Times reports other responses.

“Obviously, a billion dollars means a lot,” said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington. “It means the economy’s hanging on and it puts us in a better situation for the next budget.”

But, he added, “We still have problems.”
Those problems, however, are considerably lighter than what lawmakers expected last June. The Associated Press writes,

That potential shortfall has steadily been shrinking since June, when numbers showed that state revenues through mid-2023 were projected to be nearly $9 billion lower than previous projections had shown. In September, they were projected to be $4.6 billion lower.

Revenues for the current budget cycle that ends mid-2021 are now projected to be $51 billion, with an ending balance of nearly $1.8 billion in reserves. And projected revenues for the next year budget cycle are projected to total more than $57 billion.

What once seemed like a formidable budget crisis now looks much more like a manageable problem, requiring neither steep spending reductions nor tax increases.