EYE ON OLYMPIA: Legislature briefed on revenue forecast

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

By Jeremy Schwartz

Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIA — The 24th Legislative District’s elected voices in Olympia say the next few weeks of the 2013 session will be focused on the state budget as both chambers were given a run down of the state revenue forecasts released last week.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives are looking to prepare their own budget documents in the coming weeks, State Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, said Friday, with the Senate expected to release theirs first.

Both chambers now have the March revenue forecast to work with, which, among other things, showed a $41 million increase in revenue from the last forecast in November.

“The bad news is, everybody tries to spend it four or five times when they think they have extra money,” said State Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, on Friday.

Hargrove and Tharinger, along with State Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, represent the 24th District, which comprises Clallam and Jefferson counties and a portion of Grays Harbor County.

Hargrove has said in interviews this legislative session that preparing for the 2013-2015 biennium budget has taken the majority of his time, through hearing state finance presentations in January and February and discussing budget issues with fellow senators as April approaches.

“That’s pretty much all I was doing [last] week,” Hargrove said Friday.

Hargrove is the ranking minority member on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which handles budget issues, and serves as one of four legislators on the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.

According to the revenue forecast released by the council last week, the 2013-2015 state operating budget is on track to be $32.5 billion.

Tharinger said the
$41 million figure is better than a negative revenue forecast, though is not a drastic increase in terms of a $32.5 billion state budget.

“[As] part of the state budget, it’s sort of a flat number,” he said.

During a budget forecast presentation Friday in the House Finance Committee, which Tharinger vice-chairs, he said home and car sales were reported as up since November, though overall sales tax receipts remained relatively flat.

Tharinger said budget forecasters also expressed worry over how the federal sequestration and the economic climate in Europe will ultimately affect Washington.

“They don’t factor those numbers in [to the forecast], but I think their statement was that they are concerned.”

As the Republican-controlled Senate prepares to release its budget for a House vote in the coming weeks, Tharinger and Van De Wege said the House Republicans, which is the minority party, has released a portion of a budget that deals specifically with education.

The State Supreme Court has ruled that the state must spend more on basic education over the next few years.

Tharinger said his concerns with the House Republican proposal include the $9 million reserve the proposal leaves in a $32.5 billion budget, which Tharinger said would not last long.

“You could burn through 9 million bucks in a day,” Tharinger said.

In a Saturday interview, Van De Wege said the Republican proposal “threw all kinds of money” at all-day kindergarten, though did not set aside money for transportation.

“They did not leave any funding for transportation, which for rural Washington is really disheartening to see.”

The House and Senate have until the regular legislative session ends April 28 to vote on a state budget and send it to Gov. Jay Inslee.

Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 24. 2013 6:02PM
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