Washington’s state budget took a large hit this morning. The November Economic & Revenue Forecast, released today, shows an additional $1.2 billion decline in revenue between now and 2013.
The Forecast will require Washington to further reduce the budget for the current fiscal year by $385 million. This is in addition to the $520 million across-the-board cuts the Governor ordered earlier this fall.
State Chief Economist Arun Raha stated that the additional decline in state revenues for the current biennium is due to the repeal of the soda, candy, and bottle water tax in November and weaker future revenue growth than was assumed in September.
According to Raha, credit to small business remains tight, recovery in the commercial construction sector is not expected until 2012, and single-family housing remains weak. In addition though some signs show positive movement with regard to multifamily housing and auto sales, neither can be assumed to be sustainable or substantial.
In addition, the budget shortfall for 2011-13 increased by $800 million, increasing the total budget gap for the upcoming biennium to $5.7 billion. The increase in the 2011-13 biennium is also related to the reduction in revenue as a result of the repeal of the candy, bottled water, and soda tax combined with a weaker outlook for revenue growth.
The forecast caught many by surprise, including the Governor and policymakers since revenues had been closely tracking to the September forecast.
The Governor has stated that further across-the-board cuts are not feasible.
“I have been working with legislative leadership in both parties to collect ideas on how to address our current shortfall. This forecast has added even more urgency to those discussions, and I’ve asked them to provide their options to me by November 29. Quite frankly we can’t cut any deeper without ending significant programs. Extremely difficult choices must be made, and given this sharp revenue decline, they must be made now,” Gregoire said.
The only positive note in all of this. According to Raha, Washington’s strong aerospace and software industries combined with important exports to Pacific Rim nations may mean that Washington could perform better than other U.S. states in the economic recovery.