FILE - Money

(The Center Square) – There is some bipartisan agreement that next Monday’s revenue forecast from the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council is likely to reflect the reality of historically high inflation and fears of a possible recession.

In other words, better-than-expected revenue projections that have been the norm recently may yield more moderate expectations next week, given the current economic reality.  

The previous revenue forecast in November projected an increase of $762 million for the current 2021-23 biennium and a $681 million increase for the 2023-25 biennium.

“My gut is I think the revenue forecast will probably not be super positive on March 20th,” Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, told The Center Square at the beginning of this month. “I don’t have any inside knowledge into that. But just generally the way things are tracking, I think it seems like we’re going into an economic slowdown and normally we’d want on economic slowdowns to paint it out over four years.”

This week, a fellow senator echoed those comments.

“And of course we have the revenue forecast coming up, and I expect it to be modestly positive is my guess,” Senate Minority Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, said Tuesday during a media availability event on the current legislative session.

Mullet delved into what a less rosy revenue forecast might mean for the state’s two-year operating budget lawmakers are tasked with passing this session.

“That means a lot of times you have less money than you would originally plan for, so I just think we have to be really cautious about starting new programs this session and that’s the reality of it,” he said.

Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, speaking at the same event as Braun, expressed little confidence in majority Democrats’ easing up on spending in upcoming budget proposals.

“I think what we are likely to see, unfortunately, is a lot of state’s revenue growth spread around like peanut butter,” he said.

In making his case, Stokesbary noted the size of the state budget has increased over the years.

“The budget will likely spend $70 billion over the next two years,” he pointed out.

In December, Gov. Jay Inslee proposed a $70.4 billion operating budget for the 2023-25 biennium that emphasized addressing housing, homelessness, and behavioral health.

“For context, it was about $35 billion when I was elected nine sessions ago,” Stokesbary said of the budget. “So with the budget nearly doubling in eight or nine years, there should be plenty of money for tax cuts.”

“I will be surprised if there’s tax cuts,” Stokesbary said, “but I certainly hope there’s not tax increases, but I fear that might be the case.”

Staff Reporter

Brett Davis reports on Washington state government for The Center Square. He previously worked for public policy organizations the Freedom Foundation and Washington Farm Bureau, as well as various community newspapers.