Washington Research Council analysis: A modest supplemental budget, how the four-year balanced budget requirement works

There wasn’t a lot of time to examine the Legislature’s supplemental budget. They passed it shortly after negotiators reached agreement. We wrote about it here.

The Washington Research Council has now produced a Policy Brief taking a closer look at the adopted budget. On balance, it looks like a good result. The WRC concludes,

The end result (pending the governor’s signature) is a fairly modest supplemental (policy level spending is negative, on net) that adheres to the four-year balanced budget requirement.

The heavy lifting comes next year. By preserving the four-year balanced budget requirement, legislators made their future work a little easier by avoiding unsustainable expenditure growth. In a blog post, the WRC corrects some misimpressions of the effects of the requirement (e.g., it increases time spent in special session, it’s too speculative, too restrictive) and notes:

Of course forecasts are going to be less accurate the longer the window. But it’s still good to base current decisions on your best estimate of how things will be in the future. (Should fiscal notes for legislation be limited to the first two years?) 

Disagreement about the requirement contributed to some of the endgame tension in budget negotiations. Ultimately, retaining the restraint is good fiscal policy, contributing to long-term budget sustainability.