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Gov. Chris Gregoire now says a state budget solution might be possible without a temporary tax hike (but she’ll need to see such a budget first)

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Feb. 16, 2012 at 11:32 am |
February 16, 2012 11:52 am

In a press statement just released, Gov. Chris Gregoire said a solution to the state’s budget problems might be possible without a statewide vote on a temporary tax hike.

She was reacting to a revenue forecast that added a relatively small $96 million to expected state tax collections over the next 16 months. But added to another forecast that said demand for state services will drop, saving another $330 million, the budget problem has gotten a bit easier.

That’s not to say “easy.” Lawmakers will still need to find between $900 million and $1 billion in cuts or new revenue. And Gregoire said today any budget they come up with must prioritize education, both k-12 and higher education.

Her slight retreat from seeking a statewide tax vote was shared by Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ed Murray at today’s meeting of the council that approves revenue forecasts.

“A week ago I would have said there is no question. Now I would say there is a question,” Murray said.

I asked Gregoire spokeswoman Karina Shagren if the governor’s use of the term “in Olympia” means a solution could be found without a tax vote.

“The governor hasn’t taken a proposed sales tax increase off the table,” Shagren said. “While today’s news is certainly encouraging, the small uptick in revenue doesn’t come close to solving our budget problem. The governor wants to see the Legislature’s proposed budgets first. If they can find a solution to the budget shortfall here in Olympia that prioritizes education – she’s open to that. But again, cuts still need to be made and she wants to see what those cuts are before ending the conversation on new revenue.”

Here’s the release:

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today issued the following statement on the state’s revenue forecast, which shows projected General Fund revenue for the 2011–13 biennium up by $96 million:

“Since the start of the national recession in late 2007, 27 of 32 forecasts spanning three biennia have been negative. When I put out my budget last November, the inaction in Congress, the European debt crisis and low consumer confidence all presented a negative financial picture. Today’s modest uptick in revenue, the first in this biennium, combined with last week’s caseload forecast has improved our financial outlook.

“This welcome news may allow the Legislature to find a solution to our budget in Olympia and with it I ask the Legislature to send me a budget that prioritizes our kids in early learning, K-12, and higher education. We’re not out of the woods yet and solving the budget problem remains a significant and daunting task. I will continue to work with the Legislature on a budget that gets us through these times and puts us on a sustainable economic path for the future.”

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