WRC: With new revenue forecast, the state budget again projected to balance over four years.

Tuesday’s official revenue forecast added $432 million to projections for 2019-2021. We called it an essentially status quo update, but missed something that Washington Research Council economist Kriss Sjoblom identified in a blog post on the forecast.

In this earlier post, Emily noted that the official budget outlook shows that the enacted 2019–21 budget fails to balance over four years. The additional revenues provided by today’s forecast are enough to put the 2019-21 budget into four-year balance.

That’s good. But Tuesday’s bailout doesn’t absolve lawmakers of responsibility for hastily adopting a budget without full analysis. We previously commented on the “earlier post” Sjoblom cites:

In a blog post, Emily Makings writes,

The conference report for the operating budget was released to the public the day before the end of the legislative session. It was accompanied by an estimated outlook based on the conference agreement that indicated that the conference report balanced over four years—the unrestricted ending balance for funds subject to the outlook was estimated to be $102 million in 2021–23.

But in the fog of the last few days of session, some bills were enacted that were not included in the estimated outlook and some bills that were included were not enacted. Additionally, Gov. Inslee vetoed several provisions of the operating budget. Given all that, the official outlook estimates that the budget no longer balances over four years. Instead, it leaves an unrestricted ending balance of negative $58 million in 2021–23.

The “fog” was of lawmakers’ own making, of course.

One other point on the revenue forecast, again highlighted by Makings in a blog post. The forecast council will provide estimates of the B&O tax increase lawmakers dedicated to a new account. As we mentioned Tuesday, the official forecast did not capture all the tax increases passed this session Makings reports,

Following adoption of the June revenue forecast yesterday …, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC) discussed including in the forecast revenues from the business and occupation tax surcharge for workforce education that was enacted this year (E2SHB 2158).

Sen. Rolfes raised the question, saying, “I believe it would help our budgeting greatly if we were able to get the forecast—the revenue forecast—in an organized way from [the ERFC].” The revenues from the surcharge go to the new workforce education investment account (WEIA), which is outside the outlook, so they aren’t included in the revenue forecast…

So, beginning with the September forecast, there will be a forecast of the WEIA, but it will be kept separate from the forecast of NGFO revenues.

This is a good step.