Washington's economic forecast trends upward

The economic forecast for Washington state is a bit better than anticipated in previous reports.

The Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council announced that June's forecast is up $231 million from the most recent projection released in March. The council increased its projections by $121 million for 2013-15, and revised upward the projections for the current biennium by approximately $110 million.

Steve Lerch, the council's executive director, said the state's economic growth is improving, thanks to housing activity picking up throughout the state.

"Washington's economy continues to improve, but at a slow pace," Lerch said. "Slightly stronger than expected housing activity has resulted in moderate increases in the revenue forecast for both the 2011-13 and 2013-15 biennium."

According to the council, the state's "General Fund" collections are expected to total approximately $32.6 billion for the 2013-15 biennium. Even with the increases, the council warns that "the state faces about a $1 billion shortfall between the cost of all current obligations and revenue anticipated in the next biennium."

That shortfall doesn't take into account the state's Supreme Court education funding decision, which is forcing legislators in Olympia to "fully fund" education within the next decade or so.

"It is encouraging that our economy and state revenue collections continue to move in a positive direction," said David Schumacher, director of the Office of Financial Management for the state. "Increased revenue in the forecast may help with the Legislature's ongoing budget negotiations. But we still have work to do to reach a final agreement on a fiscally sound budget."

The Legislature continues to wrangle over a budget in Olympia in its second special session of the year, facing a June 30 deadline. If no agreement is reached on a budget by then, Governor Jay Inslee has indicated a shutdown of state government will have to happen.

The next forecast from the council is expected to be released Sept. 18.

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