LEGISLATORS in Olympia show every sign of delaying agreement on a two-year state budget until the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council releases its revenue forecast on June 18. The feeling is that the economy is improving, revenue collections are up, so the revenue forecast for the coming biennium will be up, too.
It may well be. The extra money, however, is not likely to be all that much. The previous four official forecasts increased the 2013-2015 revenue projection by a cumulative 3.5 tenths of 1 percent, or $113 million. In spending assumptions, the House and Senate are still more than a billion dollars apart, little of which is likely to be settled by the next forecast.
The differences will be settled by legislators. The two chambers were supposed to settle them in the 105-day regular session using the forecast of March 20. They failed. They didn’t even try hard.
Now they are in a special session that is supposed to end June 11, and they are already setting themselves up for another failure, because some want to wait until June 18 before making decisions.
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Waiting is not a good idea. Many state agencies are building next year’s budgets now.
Knowing how much money there is to spend is especially critical in public education. The K-12 schools tend to start hiring teachers and other staff for next year now.
That does not mean staffing and programmatic plans cannot be changed later, but it becomes more of a challenge to a system already facing plenty of challenges.
The new fiscal year begins July 1. They should be making decisions now.
If legislators insist on procrastination, members of the House might pass the time by approving Senate Bill 5910, which would roll back the March 20 forecast to Feb. 20, giving legislators an extra month in regular sessions in which to get serious about their task at hand.
The measure was approved without opposition in the Senate but was never voted on in the House. It should be.