That didn’t take long. The 2009-11 supplemental budget (rolled into the 2011-13 budget) Governor Gregoire signed yesterday is already projected to end in an $84 million deficit thanks to today’s revenue forecast.

According to the state’s budget director Marty Brown, the ending fund balance for 2009-11 is projected to be minus $84 million and plus $163 million for 11-13. That $163 million reserve for 11-13 is nearly $600 million less than was assumed yesterday when the Governor signed the budgets.

This despite the fact that the net impact of today’s revenue forecast was only a negative $12 million between the two budgets ($171 million higher for 09-11 and $183 million lower for 11-13).

Confused? You’re not alone.

The Seattle PI has this write up of today’s events:

“The state has $183 million less than it expected to pay for services through 2013. Or $600 million. Or $483 million. Take your pick.

For the dozens of fans of economic forecasts and state budgets, Thursday’s meeting to discuss Washington’s economy was pretty good theater.

Arun Raha,  executive director of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, told lawmakers they’d have $183 million less to spend because of an anticipated drop in state taxes. But some on the panel started tossing around numbers like $483 million or $600 million or several other figures.

Exasperated reporters tried to pin them down. Exasperated lawmakers and budget officials tried to explain.

‘At the end of the day, the revenue is down almost $600 million,’ said state Sen. Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgfield. ‘The big bogey here is the counting of the amnesty ….We had a discussion about how much of that we ought to count.’ . . .

But Raha, counting the tax amnesty program, says revenue through 2011 was actually higher, not lower. And he says his projection through 2013 is down $163 million.

Raha was asked why his figure differed from the ones being cited by legislators.

‘I can’t help you understand the difference. I think they’re right, and I think so am I. It’s just a different way of looking at things,’ he said. ‘What you’re bringing up is really an accounting issue.'”

Bottom line: $84 million deficit for 2009-11 and a scant $163 million reserve for 2011-13 (0.5% of spending).

Looks like lawmakers could be a bad September revenue forecast away from another special session.


[Reprinted from the Washington Policy Center blog.]

[photo credit: flickr]