New Budget Outlook Adopted by Economic and Revenue Forecast Council

The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council adopted a new budget outlook today. (TVW coverage here.) The Washington Research Council reports on the ERFC action, writing

Ultimately, the ERFC adopted the outlook that is in the materials, which incorporates the governor’s vetoes of provisions of the 2016 supplemental operating budget. The unrestricted ending fund balance for 2015-17 is $474 million (down from $576 million as passed by the Legislature). The unrestricted ending fund balance for 2017-19 is negative $314 million (down from $9 million as passed by the Legislature). (It should be noted, though, that the balance of the rainy day fund at the end of 2017-19 is expected to be $1.143 billion.)

The outlook is complicated by assumptions about the costs of satisfying the state Supreme Court’s education funding requirements (the McCleary decision). WRC analyst Emily Makings reviews the budget implications as discussed at the ERFC meeting. It’s a helpful summary, well worth your time. Makings notes that the divisions on the ERFC meant that the forecast was adopted by default.

The motion to adopt the outlook as prepared by staff also failed (4-2, approval requires five votes), but in the case of insufficient votes, the staff recommendation goes into force. 

The Seattle Times provides additional detail, reporting

In what may be a first, the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council couldn’t get the votes Wednesday to approve Washington’s budget-forecast outlook.

The reason? A political divide on whether to formally acknowledge the billions of dollars that lawmakers expect they’ll have to come up with to comply with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.

…State Treasurer James McIntire, a Democratic member of the revenue-forecast council, wanted the expected McCleary costs reflected in the budget outlook — a four-year forecast of how much money the state is expected to collect and spend.

He pointed to data showing the levy changes would cost the state about $3.5 billion.

Maybe, but as the Times reports,

There’s still a range on how much that could cost, [Sen. Andy] Hill said, and he worried the court might use an official number in a future ruling.

So, no number in the forecast. But there’s likely to be a big number in the budget.