State forecasters predicted today Washington’s general fund will collect $32.65 billion in the next budget period from mid-2013 to mid-2015, leaving their estimates roughly unchanged from their last report three months ago.
The shortfall for state lawmakers to deal with when they arrive in session next January still stands at more than $400 million — not counting what it will take to fulfill a court mandate to provide ample and dependable funding for the public schools, which could cost $1 billion.
The latest forecast released today by the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council does show a small change in the right direction — an extra $23 million in the next biennium and $29 million in the current biennium, a small fraction in a total of $30.47 billion.
The economists are predicting modest growth in the years ahead — with revenue going up by an average of just more than 4 percent per year over the next five years. When inflation and Washington’s growing population is considered, the projected revenue increase stands at less than 1 percent per year.
Their best guess is that revenue will grow to $35.5 billion in the budget period from mid-2015 to mid-2017.
The latest projections reflect some positive economic activity since June, said the council’s new director, Steve Lerch: a slight increase in estimates of personal income, slightly better-than-expected employment growth, and rising home prices. But Lerch wrote that the “slowing global economy has put an end to Washington’s export boom.”