State Revenue Forecast increases by $2.2B
Fears of draconian state budget cuts were put to rest with our state’s updated revenue forecast, which showed a significant economic rebound cutting the projected state revenue deficit by half. This is great news for our state budget, more than half of which is spent on public education in K-12 and post-secondary.
Some school districts have cited possible state budget cuts to other programs and services as reasons to reduce services for students at a time when they are needed most. However, the state’s Supreme Court has clearly said state basic education funding cannot be reduced solely for financial crisis.
“Any district that had doubts before about possible cuts can sleep better tonight knowing we’re in good shape,” said Larry Delaney, president of WEA. “There’s no need to eliminate essential supports for our students.”
When the legislature ended the 2020 session, the state’s rainy day fund was at its highest level ever. The Governor quickly enacted budget saving solutions to increase the state’s ending fund balance. These forward-thinking actions coupled with the vast improvement to our state’s revenue projections mean that our state is expected to end the current biennial budget cycle with a $760 million surplus.
While this is good news, it is expected growth for the next biennial budget cycle will be flat. Senator Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) who is also the Senate Ways and Means Committee chair reacted to the forecast stating this new information lessens the urgency of budget cuts in the near-term.
WEA remains committed to advocating for progressive revenues to balance out our state’s upside-down tax code to support our state’s working families. Our state will need new revenues to ensure safety net programs and educational programs can provide the supports many may need to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, some school districts and colleges have handed down furloughs or layoffs at a time when we need every staff member to assist students citing potential funding cuts next school year. Across the state, paraeducators, nutrition services staff, transportation staff, and others have faced layoffs from districts and colleges skittish about future funding. The revised forecast shows it’s time to recall these employees and put them to work meeting needs for COVID health and safety, for meals and school supplies, and for supporting students in these difficult times.
“We need more staff, not less, to meet our students’ needs during this pandemic,” noted Delaney. “With this news about our state’s better economic outlook, it’s time to bring back all our educators.”
WEA supports progressive revenue solutions and looks forward to working with lawmakers in the 2021 session to explore options to improve state funding.