Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Two important state forecasts were released on June 18. The first was a report on our state's economy and its impact on tax collections – also known as revenue. The second was an analysis of our state's caseloads for things like enrollment in public schools, correctional facilities, public assistance and other social services. Both forecasts will guide state lawmakers in the short term as they finalize a state operating budget in the second special session. But these reports should also guide the Legislature as it looks for long-term solutions that will reduce unemployment and help personal incomes rise.
The revenue forecast showed our state plans to take in an additional $110 million in revenue for the current budget cycle (2011-13) and an additional $121 million for 2013-15. This essentially means state lawmakers have an extra $231 million as they negotiate the 2013-15 state operating budget. This should finally put to rest the argument that tax increases are needed to balance the state operating budget. Even prior to this windfall, our state had enough revenue to fund the priorities of government – including around $1 billion more for K-12 education. It just comes down to setting priorities and embracing reforms.
The caseload forecast revealed our state expects a reduction in enrollments for state programs and services. Simply put: fewer people will be reliant on state government. This means $90 million in savings that can be re-appropriated to other areas.
A third report, the June Economic and Revenue Update from June 11, also provided some information on our state's economy that you might be interested in. Here are some highlights:
- May consumer confidence returned to pre-recession levels.
- Inflation in the Seattle metropolitan area – which includes Island, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Snohomish and Thurston counties – remained moderate in early 2013.
- Housing and construction are improving, but aerospace employment is declining. To read a recent opinion piece from one of my legislative colleagues, Sen. Mike Hewitt, on Boeing's exodus from our state, click here.
- The state's unemployment rate went from 7.5 percent in February, to 7.3 percent in March, to 7 percent in April. The April unemployment rate in Snohomish County was 4.9 percent, while Skagit County was 8.3 percent. This underscores the importance of economic solutions that will benefit the whole state.
What these three reports show is that our state's economy continues to improve and this is easing the financial strains on state government. However, we know this recovery remains fragile and that a lot of people are still struggling to get by. Now is not the time for state lawmakers to rest and assume things will continue to get better; now is the time to find ways to accelerate the economic recovery so our state is well positioned for the future.
In your service,