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State Taking Care Of Fewer People That Means More Savings, New Council Says

Boeing’s decision to hire more in-state workers and the Navy’s decision to move the USS Nimitz to the East Coast could mean more money for state corrections programs and nursing homes - or money in the bank.

The windfall from these two decisions, which mean lower school enrollments, and a decrease in welfare recipients because of welfare reform, will mean millions of dollars in savings, a new forum discovered Thursday.

“That’s all bank-able or spend-able,” said House budget chief Tom Huff, R-Gig Harbor, a member of the newly formed state Caseload Forecast Council.

The council, which was created by the Legislature and governor earlier this year, estimates how many people the state will have to take care of - either in schools, prisons, nursing homes or on some form of public assistance.

Those estimates are used to prepare and revise the state budget.

Lower-than-expected enrollment in kindergarten through high school will mean a savings of about $45 million, Dick Thompson, director of the state Office of Financial Management, said at the council meeting here.

There will be more people in prisons, juvenile detention centers, nursing homes and in need of medical assistance, but the overall number of people the state takes care of will be smaller than expected. The net savings isn’t yet known, Thompson and other council members concluded.

The new forecast is about 6,000 students lower than expected for each of the next two years.

Theresa Lowe, state population forecaster, said the enrollment estimate is lower because there aren’t as many people moving into the state to take jobs at The Boeing Co., which is hiring more in-state workers.

Moreover, the USS Nimitz, an aircraft carrier stationed in Bremerton, was reassigned to Virginia this summer. The 1,200 families who moved had 800 children who now won’t be attending school in the state.

Also, a poorer-than-expected apple crop in Eastern Washington brought fewer migrant workers and their children into the state.

The revised estimates showed:

The number of families on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families - the new welfare program - is expected to fall to about 73,000 by mid-1999. If that happens, the Legislature will see the 15 percent reduction it had hoped for.

There will be about 90,500 people receiving Supplemental Security Income payments in 1998-99 - about 12,000 more than expected. That’s because Congress, which had made some immigrants ineligible last year, restored benefits to them this year.

The number of people who get General Assistance payments because they are too ill or too injured to work will be only half as large as expected - roughly 17,500 instead of 35,000. The state had expected people kicked off SSI to enroll in the GA program, but that didn’t happen when Congress said they could keep getting SSI benefits.

In addition, some 1,800 to 2,000 people who were kicked off SSI because they were drug addicts or alcoholics didn’t enroll in the state-funded GA program, as expected. Forecasters don’t know what happened to them.

The prison work-release population will rise to about 14,200 inmates in 1998-99 - about 250 more than expected. The number of people convicted of sex, assault, robbery and property crimes is on the rise, and a criminal-justice measure passed into law this year is expected to send more juvenile criminals into the adult correctional system.

The number of juvenile offenders held in detention is expected to rise slightly because that same law calls for offenders to remain on supervised parole twice as long, and officials expect more juveniles to violate terms of their parole. There will be about 1,510 housed in state facilities in 1999.

About 20,000 children will be removed from their homes and placed in private, group or foster homes, or will need adoption services or other support from the state. A different method of forecasting was used this fall, so there is no comparison with earlier estimates.

Tags: government