NEWS: Year’s final revenue forecast should end talk of new taxes

OLYMPIA… Sen. Lynda Wilson is viewing 2023’s final quarterly forecast of state-government revenue as yet another reason to take a firm line against tax increases in 2024.

“There’s no budget deficit on the horizon. It was confirmed today that government has more than enough revenue to maintain services and programs. Put those together and there is absolutely no justification for raising even more money through new taxes,” said Wilson, R-Vancouver.

Wilson chairs the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, which met this morning to adopt the last of the state’s quarterly revenue forecasts for the year. It adjusts the state’s four-year budget outlook upward by $788 million, with $191 million of that for the 2023-25 biennium and $579 million for the following two-year budget cycle.

Given the positive outlook, Wilson, who is Senate Republican budget leader, sees no need for a repeat of 2023, when the Legislature’s majority Democrats made a try for three tax increases.

“The majority kept a proposed ‘wealth tax’ alive into the second half of this past session, pushed a proposed tax increase on real estate into the final week, and introduced a bill with 11 days to go that would lift the voter-approved lid on property-tax increases. All that happened even though there was no threat of a budget deficit and more than enough money on hand,” she said. “In light of today’s forecast, I see no legitimate reason for anyone to talk about new taxes in the upcoming session.”

Wilson said the task of adopting a supplemental operating budget during the upcoming legislative session will be simpler if lawmakers agree early on to work within available revenue. The governor can set an example next month by proposing a supplemental budget that doesn’t rely on new taxes, she added.

“The traditional purpose of a supplemental budget is to respond to unanticipated changes in caseloads, like school enrollment or social services; deal with emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic; and address opportunities that wouldn’t be available if we waited for the next biennium,” Wilson explained.

“We should get back to those standards. While I see the drug-overdose epidemic and K-12 learning loss and the high gas prices caused by the cap-and-tax law as things that can’t wait another year, none of those would require more taxes.”

During today’s meeting Wilson thanked Dr. Stephen Lerch, who is retiring as the state’s chief economist and ERFC executive director after almost 12 years. Lerch has led a team of four economists that prepares not only the quarterly revenue forecasts but also quarterly economic forecasts and monthly updates in both categories.

“He’s done a great job and is leaving some big boots to fill,” said Wilson. David Reich, formerly chief economist for King County, attended today’s meeting as Lerch’s successor. He will present the first revenue forecast for 2024, midway through the upcoming legislative session.