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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Good forecast could mean Lege gets outta town

State economist Steve Lerch, right, explains figures from the latest economic forecast to Rep. Ross Hunter Tuesday.

OLYMPIA — The state's economic outlook is improving, in part because of better home sales, and the state could have an extra $231 million in tax revenue over the next two years for its general operating budget.

That's the word from the Revenue and Forecast Council, which believes the March projections were a bit low by about $110 million for this biennium and $121 million for the 2013-15 biennium.

While a relatively small percentage of the state's operating budget, which tops $32 billion, negotiators who have been locked in budget talks for weeks predicted it will generate an agreement relatively soon and prevent a partial government shutdown in July.

"We'll get closer as a result of this," Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said.

"It should break one of the final logjams," Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said. . . 

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State revenue up, but is it enough?

OLYMPIA – Revenue projections for the next two years suggest the state budget will grow by about $2 billion. That’s more than some legislators expected and more than enough to fuel the debate between Senate Republicans and House Democrats over spending cuts and tax increases.

The March economic and revenue forecast says the state is slowly coming out of the recession, with housing starts and car sales up, overall consumer confidence down and significant questions about future hits the state coffers could take from with economic problems in Europe, a slowdown in China or the continuing budget stalemates in Washington, D.C.

We still see lots of uncertainty out there,” Steve Lerch, the state economist, said. Although legislators were bracing for a drop of as much as $300 million, the revenue forecast didn’t change significantly from December.

The state should have about $32.5 billion in its general operating fund for the two-year budget cycle, which begins July 1. That would be up from about $30.5 billion it will collect, and mostly spend, for the biennial cycle that ends June 30. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Shaun Higgins to provide GSI members with economic overview on Friday

Longtime Spokane economic "handicapper" Shaun O'L Higgins gets on stage tomorrow, May 11, for another in his annual forecasts for the region.

Higgins, formerly marketing and circulation manager for The Spokesman-Review (now retired), will go over the upticks, downsides and unlikely indicators that provide guidance on how the economy is doing.

The presentation is sponsored and presented by Greater Spokane Inc. and starts at 7:30 at the Marie Antoinette Room of the Davenport Hotel.
Prices, if you haven't registered yet: $30 for GSI members; $55 for others.
To register, go here.

A gloomier forecast than three months ago, but growth still predicted in Idaho

Idaho's October economic forecast is out, and it's a gloomier outlook than the state's last forecast in July. That's mainly because national forecasts have changed, raising the likelihood that the national economy would slip into a recession from 25 percent in July to 40 percent in October. “The outlook for Idaho's economy has also darkened somewhat,” wrote Idaho's chief economist, Derek Santos, in the new forecast. “Instead of shifting into higher gear in the first half of 2011, job growth slipped into neutral. As a result, there were fewer jobs in the second quarter of 2011 than in the fourth quarter of 2010.”

That's depressed job-growth forecasts going several years out, Santos noted, though growth still is predicted. You can read the full forecast here, which predicts computer and electronics employment will be relatively stable; logging and wood products employment will rise 6.5 percent this year, decline slightly next year, then grow more the following two years; construction jobs are predicted to drop through 2012, then begin growing very slowly the following two years; durable good manufacturing jobs are expected to recover in 2011 what they lost in 2010; and service jobs are expected to grow.

WA economic forecast today

OLYMPIA — The state's economic forecast for the remainder of this two-year budget cycle comes out this morning, and the real question here is not "Will it be bad?" but "How bad will it be?"

In June, the forecast all but wiped out the budgetary cushion, aka the ending fund balance, the Legislature thought it left at the end of its special session. Since that time, most economic news has been worse, not better.

Chief Economic Forecaster Arun Raha is scheduled to begin his presentation at 10 a.m. to the forecasting council. He typically gives a midline forecast, as well as a pessimistic and optimistic estimate.

A major drop in expected revenues early in the biennium — that is, in the next six months — could prompt calls from some legislators for another special session to trim the budget. Gov. Chris Gregoire has already ordered state agency leaders to come up with plans to cut 5 percent and 10 percent from the spending plans they were given by the Legislature in June.

We'll have updates for you later in the morning.

WA Lege Day 67: Economic day of reckoning

OLYMPIA — Today is F-Day in Olympia, as in Forecast Day.

Arun Raha, the state's chief economist, will issue his forecast of the amount of revenue the state can expect to collect in the 2011-13 biennium, which will guide budget writers in the Legislature for however long it takes for them to write the General Operating Budget.

Until noon, the state budget is projected to have a $4.6 billion gap between what the state can expect to bring in with taxes, fees and other sources of revenue, and the cost of all the programs, services and salaries it currently has on the books.

The forecast released at noon is expected to widen that gap, and the real question is, by  how much? The low side is about $500 million; the high side is $2 billion.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has a press conference scheduled for 2 p.m. to talk about the new numbers.

But that's not all, as they say in the Ronco commercials.

The Poker Players Alliance, who are fans of online poker are in Olympia lobbying their favorite legislators to change the law to make the online version of their favorite card game poker legal in Washington. They'll  shuffling up and dealing with legislators at a closed door reception later in the evening.


The Washington Association of Churches and other faith-based groups from throughout the Puget Sound are mounting an InterFaith Advocacy Day to lobby for their favorite programs, and will be able to join the Protect our Future Revenue Forecast Rally on the north steps of the Capitol about the time the forecast is being announced. The Backbone Campaign has a "Prioritize People" vigil across the lawn on the Temple of Justice steps. The state's newspaper publishers are also in town. It's Massage Awareness Day with massage therapists in the Capitol Mezzanine. Many of the staff are wearing green for St. Patrick's Day, although some members of the SEIU who are doing some lobbying will be dressed in a different shade for Purple Presence Day.

Economy improving, state budget in black from tax hikes

OLYMPIA — Although the economic recovery “lost steam” in May, the state’s economic outlook is slowly improving and the state’s budget no longer awash in red ink.

What’s keeping it in the black, however, are hundreds of millions in new taxes the state expects to collect through mid 2013, and an as-yet unfulfilled promise of $480 million in federal money.

Arun Raha, the state’s chief economist, said this morning the state’s job growth was “disappointing” in May, after several good months of increases when manufacturing and software jobs improved. In May, most of the job growth was from temporary employment for people helping with the U.S. Census.

Some employers are holding off on new hires…

Could it get worse?

Good morning, Netizens…

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. employers cut a deeper-than-expected 263,000 jobs in September, lifting the unemployment rate to 9.8 percent, according to a government report on Friday that fueled fears the weak labor market could undermine economic recovery. The Labor Department said the unemployment rate was the highest since June 1983 and payrolls had now dropped for 21 consecutive months.

How much worse could it get?

Of course, in certain areas of Washington, DC they still persist in singing this song:

So long sad times
Go long bad times
We are rid of you at last
Howdy gay times
Cloudy gray times
You are now a thing of the past

Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So lets sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again

It could get worse you know? Or it could get better.

Of course it could. “If I cannot bring you comfort, at least I bring you hope.

The movie “Toys”


Class warfare coming?

Good afternoon, Netizens…

A good friend forwarded this rather lengthy piece to me and, upon reading it through twice, I began to listen and anticipate what the author had to say. Could it happen here, in the land of milk and honey? The author of this piece accepts that it might happen, asserting that it happened once before in history. It is a good tidbit for thought nonetheless.

“Civil War in the United States?”

By Immanuel Wallerstein

We are getting accustomed to all sorts of breakdowns of taboos. The  
world press is full of discussion about whether it would be a good  
idea to “nationalize” banks. None other than Alan Greenspan, disciple  
of the superlibertarian prophet of pure market capitalism, Ayn Rand,  
has recently said that we have to nationalize banks once every  
hundred years, and this may be that moment. Conservative Republican  
Senator Lindsay Graham agreed with him. Left Keynesian Alan Blinder  
discussed the pros and cons of this idea. And while he thinks the cons are a bit bigger than the pros, he was willing to spend public  intellectual energy writing about this in the New York Times.

Well, after hearing nationalization proposals by arch-conservative notables, we are now hearing serious discussions about the possibilities of civil war in the United States. Zbigniew Brzezinski,  
apostle of anti-Communist ideology and President Carter’s National Security Advisor, appeared on a morning television talk show on February 17, and was asked to discuss his previous mention of the possibility of class conflict in the United States in the wake of the  
worldwide economic collapse.