Early revenue forecast opens budget process

The state’s chief economist released first quarter tax revenue projections today one month earlier than normal after Sen. Andy Hill successfully moved it forward to give budget writers additional time to complete a new state budget. The forecast, adopted by the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council which is chaired by Hill, projects $37.1 billion during the 2015-17 budget cycle, an increase of $140 million in revenue over previous forecasts.

“With only 105 days, it’s a sprint to try and find bipartisan agreement when revenue projections aren’t released until two-thirds of the way through session,” said Hill, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “Moving the forecast forward one month was a common sense solution to allow us to do what the people expect of us: finish on time and on budget.”

Hill originally proposed moving the forecast ahead by one month two years ago, passing the measure unanimously in the Senate four times before gaining approval by the House of Representatives in this year’s supplemental budget.

The updated forecast also includes an additional $134 million for the current 2013-15 budget cycle, bringing the total revisions up $274 million.

“Since I was first elected in 2011 the Legislature has had repeat overtimes because of the budget,” added Hill. “School districts have to set their budgets for the upcoming school year. When the process drags on too long in Olympia it doesn’t allow schools to use the additional money we’re working hard to provide them.”

The Legislature is responsible for completing a new two-year budget that goes into effect on July 1, 2015. The Senate and House of Representatives alternate who releases proposals first, meaning House budget writers are expected to bring forward a plan in the coming weeks.