Seattle Times editorial calls for special session of the Legislature to address state budget crisis.

Add The Seattle Times editorial board to the list of those calling for a special session of the state Legislature to address the state budget shortfall. The editorial makes a compelling case.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s stubborn refusal to call a special session, as he holds out for more federal relief, will cause more harm than good.

The state is projecting an $8.8 billion revenue shortfall over the next three years. Its general fund is spending down its cash. Even if Congress provides more help, it’s likely to fall far short of the gap. Some new taxes might be necessary, but the Legislature and governor cannot ask people hit hard themselves by the pandemic to pay more unless they do fundamental belt-tightening.

Delaying hard decisions only makes them harder.

We’d add that Congress is in recess until Labor Day and that even when in session, the House, Senate and White House were far apart on the next round of pandemic relief. 

The ST editorial points out the cost of delay.

A persuasive argument for prompt action is made by the nonpartisan Washington Research Council.

Had the Legislature convened in June, it could have addressed the shortfall by cutting spending between 2.9% and 9.4%. If it waits until 2021, cuts will have to be as high as 28.2%, the council estimates.

That makes sense: Reducing spending levels by a dollar this year avoids having to cut two dollars from the biennial budget legislators will start writing in January.

The ed board also points to the general fund budget deficit.

New urgency is added by the state’s cash situation. If there’s a general-fund deficit projected, state law requires an automatic, across the board spending cut.

After providing legislative staff on July 30 with a spreadsheet showing a deficit, Inslee’s budget office backpedaled. On Aug. 11, it said that was a preliminary, incomplete projection, only looking at a general-fund subsection. Counting other revenues, the overall fund is still in the black, it claims.

Regardless, the situation demands action, even if the governor is reluctant.

Yes. And, as the editorial board states, there’s legislative support for taking on the challenge.

Three of the Legislature’s four lead budget writers told this board they favor a special session to start reducing spending.

The fourth, House Appropriations Chair Timm Ormsby, said he’s not opposed but is deferring to Inslee and wants to see what federal relief arrives.

Read the whole thing.