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Some (incrementally) good budget news

OLYMPIA -- After more than a week of bad budget news for Washington state, the Revenue Department did find a silver lining in at least one dark cloud.

That is, the amount of revenue Washington state collected in fiscal 2011 was up almost 6 percent over fiscal 2010, or $16 billion compared to $15.1 billiion.

It's also higher than the $15.6 billion the state collected in fiscal 2009. But it's less than the $17 billion collected in fiscal 2008, the peak year for state revenue.

Business tax collections, sales tax collections and particularly liquor and cigarette taxes were all up last year. Gasoline taxes were down, and so were real estate excise taxes.

This is unlikely to have any effect on  November economic forecast, which is an attempt to look forward as a way of keeping the state budget under control. But in the two-month leadup to the special session,  it will no doubt play into the political back and forth over what to do about the state's budget through June 2013, through a selective use of statistics

Expect the Democrats to say revenues are down 6 percent from the pre-recession highs, and the state needs to find more revenues to provide needed services.

Expect Republicans to say they are up 6 percent from last year, and the state doesn't need more revenues it needs to live within its means.

It's sort of the 2011 Washington version of the glass half empty or half full argument.

Most of us would skip the argument, drink what's in the glass, and order another round to prepare for the upcoming special session.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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