Stateline Story

Washington State Braces for Bad News

Washington State is staring at the possibility of a budget shortfall of as much as $2 billion when a new revenue forecast is released today (September 15) — and that's on top of the $4.5 billion that lawmakers have already cut this year.

The News-Tribune of Tacoma reports on what is expected to be state revenue forecaster Arun Raha's " next bombshell ": an analysis so grim that lawmakers are already talking about a special session and the possibility of raising taxes, even though the state has already raised taxes during the downturn.

"I haven't felt this discouraged in the entire time I've been in the legislature," Representative Tami Green, a fourth-term Democrat, tells The News-Tribune . "It seems like we solve one problem and 10 more problems come along."

Last month, Governor Chris Gregoire asked state agencies to plan for cuts of up to 10 percent, but at the time the move was considered more of a exercise than a possible reality. Those plans may now be called upon as Gregoire and legislative leaders try to find more — much more — to cut from an already austere budget.

One state lawmaker noted that cutting $2 billion would be the equivalent of removing all state dollars from higher education. Gregoire, who is not running for reelection, said the state corrections department — which recently closed three prisons, cut 1,200 jobs and eliminated supervision for more than 10,000 newly released offenders — couldn't absorb more cuts without harming public safety.

Including its rainy day fund, Washington has just $163 million in reserves to last it until June 2013, according to The News-Tribune.