Governor Inslee’s budget director, David Schumacher, presented a grim state budget outlook to the Legislative Steering Committee on June 12th. While the state projects an additional $2.4 billion in revenue during the 2015-2017 biennium, this will be outstripped by the cost of projected additional spending needs, even before the state meet’s the Supreme Court’s mandate to increase funding for basic education.
The cost of current programs is expected to increase by an additional $1.7 billion during this period, while pension costs and debt service costs will likely add an additional $539 million in “mandatory” costs. Governor Inslee will likely propose cost of living increases for teachers, and higher education and state employees.
Mr. Schumacher emphasized that this budget shortfall is as large as the state saw at the beginning of the current biennium, and the techniques used by the Legislature in 2013 (such as using the fund balance from the Public Works Assistance Account) to balance the current budget, were one-time fixes. The Governor will likely be asking state agencies for significant budget reduction ideas upon which to base the budget proposal he must submit to the Legislature in December. It remains to be seen whether the Governor will be proposing revenue ideas that would avert such cuts. Regardless, it is becoming clear that the 2015 Legislative Session will be the scene for another major budget battle.