Senator: State faces challenging finances
May 21, 2020
As Washington state responds to the covid-19 pandemic, the Washington Legislature will have to address a huge revenue shortfall in a special session later this year, Sen. Dean Takko, D-Dist. 19, told local officials at a Tuesday roundtable meeting.
Because of the covid-19 pandemic, "Everything is up in the air," Takko said.
"The process for opening up society and the economy is confusing, Takko said. "I'm hearing about it. I've been told some natural resource activities will open up in a few days.
"In the big picture, the budget is way out of balance. We're expecting an updated financial report in June, so we could have a special session in August or September at the earliest."
Reports say the state faces a $7 billion budget shortfall because of the pandemic.
The good news, Takko said, is that the state has $3.5 billion in reserves.
The governor has already vetoed $460 million out of the budget the legislature approved earlier this year.
"He cut some of the things I wanted, but I think he did the right thing," Takko commented. "I would have done more, so I think there will be further cuts.
"We'll be $5-10 billion out of balance. Half of the budget is K-12 schools that we can't cut, so there are some tough decisions ahead."
Takko chairs the Senate's Local Government Committee, and that group has put together a team that includes representatives of associations from local governments. That group has recommended giving local governments increased flexibility to deal with funding and situations.
"Some mandated things may go," Takko said.
For example, certain excise tax revenue is earmarked for construction of parks, but, Takko said, "there may be higher priorities."
"Transportation will be a challenge," Takko said.
The legislature is awaiting a court decision on the validity of a referendum passed last fall that caps vehicle license fees at $30, which would cut revenue for a variety of transportation programs.
"We passed a budget assuming that it would be legal," Takko said.
"Another thing: People aren't driving as much so they're not paying gas tax. So we have some real transportation issues coming up."
The Capital Budget is still intact, Takko said, and that includes funding he requested to help restore the Pioneer Community Center in Cathlamet.
Gov. Inslee has continued budget reduction measures. On May 13,he ordered state agencies to halt most hiring, new personal services contracts, and equipment purchases, and to prepare 15 percent reductions in state agency budgets.