Spin Control

WA chief economist Raha to quit

OLYMPIA -- Dr. Arun Raha, state chief economist, reads from his list of Top 10 Arun-isms at a press conference announcing he is resigning to take a job in Cleveland. (Jim Camden)
OLYMPIA -- Dr. Arun Raha, state chief economist, reads from his list of Top 10 Arun-isms at a press conference announcing he is resigning to take a job in Cleveland. (Jim Camden)

Arun Raha reads from a list of his Top 10 "Arun-isms".

OLYMPIA -- Dr. Arun Raha, the state's chief economist who delivered some the worst financial news in more than a half-century but managed a quip or a laugh to help ease the pain, is stepping down.

"I'm going back to the private sector, and anonymity, hopefully," he said today at a press conference. He's taking a job as director of corporate economics for a company in Ohio.

Raha was appointed to the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council in 2008, and his tenure has been marked by the worst economic downturn in the state since the Great Depression.

"It was a challenge," he said. "Any job I have after this is going to be a piece of cake."

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Raha delivered a steady stream of forecasts for declining revenue and increasing demand for state services as the national economy slid downward. But he managed to lace the dire economic reports with occasional jokes and witticisms, offered up with a dead-pan delivery but a quick smile.

At the press conference, he offered up a list of the Top 10 Arun-isms, some borrowed from famous writers, like George Bernard Shaw's contention "If you laid all the economists end to end, they still couldn't come up with a conclusion."

But most were his own, such as "Economic forecasting is like trying to drive a car forward while looking in the rearview mirror. You don't see the curves ahead." And his suggestion for a new economic slogan for Washington as it moves out of the recession quicker than some other states: "We suck less than you."

He thanked his staff for the hard and often thankless work that went into the preparing the forecasts. Current revenue collections are very close to projections, he added. "That's why I'm leaving. We're on target."

The state's economy is "bumping along the bottom," not improving rapidly but not declining either. "I do not see any reason, as of today, to significantly change the forecast either upward or downward since November."

But, he cautioned, "anything can happen. There's a huge downside risk that's still there."

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, the chairman of the Economic Forecasting Council which received and discussed Raha's quarterly reports, said he always appreciated Raha's humor,. "even though he had to deliver a lot of bad news."

The state will conduct a nationwide search for Raha's replacement that may take six or seven months, Orcutt said. In the meantime, Steve Lerch, who served as interim economist before Raha's appointment, will fill that post again.




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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Legislative and state government reporter, political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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