UPDATED/REVISED: State revenue forecaster Arun Raha said today that state revenues are lower through June 2013 than he predicted last November, in effect widening the state's budget shortfall to as much as $5.3 billion over that period.
Raha released his latest quarterly report at noon that shows a $79.8 million drop in revenues is expected by June and $698 million through June 2013. That is balanced by a last week's gain of $278 million from an improved March caseload forecast.
"The economic outlook remains cloudy with a great deal of uncertainty," Raha's presentation began. He mentioned oil price volatility tied to Mideast unrest and now the impact of the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan.
"It is a fluid and fast-changing situation,'' he added.
Raha's presentation to the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council began at noon and was carried live at on the TVW public affairs network. It is expected to air again this evening and is available at tvw.org.
Gov. Chris Gregoire put out a press release and also addressed reporters in her conference room. (Here are her remarks as prepared before the press conference.)
She said lawmakers must try to write a budget that reduces spending without adding taxes and keeps an eye on what is sustainable long term.
Her budget director Marty Brown said later the lowered revenue forecast – combined with the improved caseloads report (along with extra federal money through federal health reform) – means that lawmakers must cut about $500 million more than what Gregoire did in her December budget proposal.
Gregoire did not offer specific areas to make up the difference (except to plug her proposals to streamline government and consolidate agencies to save a few million dollars). But she said she is working with lawmakers of both parties.
She declined to rule out gambling expansion as a possible new revenue source but again criticized the idea of selling off future tobacco-settlement dollars through a bond issue, or using a "25th month" to push 2011-13 budget costs into the following budget cycle.
Jason Mercier at the free-market oriented Washington Policy Center has already transcribed some of Gov. Gregorie’s comments at her news conference here.
We are working on a story with graphics and detail for tomorrow's print editions of The Olympian and News Tribune.
Raha's recent monthly tax-collections report is here.