Unofficial budget outlooks underscores importance of swift action to address pandemic-induced revenue shortfall.

A new unofficial budget outlook adds definition to the state’s fiscal crisis. The Washington Research Council writes,

The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC) has posted an unofficial budget outlook that reflects the June revenue forecast. The outlook was prepared by the Office of Program Research and has not been officially adopted by the ERFC. (Budget outlooks are officially adopted in January and within 30 days of enactment of an operating budget.)

The outlook estimates that the unrestricted ending balance of the funds subject to the outlook (including the workforce education investment account) will be negative $3.403 billion at the end of 2019–21 and negative $8.465 billion at the end of 2021–23. Even if the Legislature drains the rainy day fund this biennium, the state would still be negative$1.487 billion at the end of 2019–21.

Although the governor and legislative leaders have expressed reluctance to convene a special legislative session this summer, these estimates demonstrate the depth of the budget problem. Editorials in major state newspapers have urged lawmakers to act sooner rather than later. 

WRC analyst Emily Makings previously wrote,

It may be technically possible to wait until January to adjust the budget, but the longer the Legislature waits, the harder it will be. Budget cuts would have to be deeper since they would be made over a shorter period. And this assumes that revenue estimates won’t be revised downward again.

Indeed. This may also be a good time to.refer again to the Research Council’s recommendations for how lawmakers should handle the shortfall.