Walla Walla Union-Bulletin editorial calls for special budget session ASAP, even as prospects recede for summer action.

The Walla Walla Union editorial board says it’s past time to make critical adjustments in the state budget.

The Legislature needs to be called into a special session as soon as possible to address the fiscal problems looming — a projected $8.8 billion state budget shortfall through 2023. About half the shortfall impacts the current $53.3 billion two-year budget.

To this point, the Democrat-controlled Legislature seems to be content to wait to address the revenue (tax collection) shortfall.

So, too, does Gov. Jay Inslee.

The Seattle Times reported today that the reticence to act quickly continues.

Gov. Jay Inslee and a key Democratic legislative leader have thrown cold water on the idea of a special legislative session this summer to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, after elected officials in both political parties said for months that such a session would be likely…

Talk in recent weeks had focused around Inslee calling lawmakers back for a session in August. But House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said Thursday lawmakers would not return this summer.

Both Sullivan and Inslee suggested the state may not ultimately need to return until lawmakers gather in January for their regularly scheduled session.

The U-B, however, makes a critical point. Acknowledging that the governor has made some spending cuts, the editorial says,

Still, more serious cuts need to be made. The sooner those occur, the fewer cuts will have to be next year and the year after. Others are calling for new taxes. It’s a discussion that should take place.

But ultimately the need for quick action is about slowing the bow wave, an analogy often used by budget writers in Olympia to describe how spending increases over time because of inflation and salaries.

“We’ve got to stop the bow wave through the 2021 biennium. We need to get down in the budget [details] and do that,” said Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoessler, R-Ritzville, in a recent phone interview with the Union-Bulletin.

And regarding the uncertainty of additional federal aid, the U-B points out,

Yes, it is possible — as many Democrats are banking — that Congress will approve another COVID-19 stimulus package that will provide billions of dollars to cover the state’s budget gap. Then again, it might not. The coronavirus is not predictable, and neither is Congress.

If the money comes, great — the budget cuts could be restored.

If not, the budget hole will only grow larger. It’s best to address the problem now — and in the open.

We’ll see.