Tomorrow, at 4 p.m., the state's economic weatherman, Chang Mook Sohn, will predict the state of Washington's treasury in the coming months and years.
Few, if anyone, expect it to be good news. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown has said she wouldn't be surprised to see expected revenues fall $100 million to $200 million from previous projections. While that's a tiny drop compared to the $33 billion biennial operating budget, it makes life hard for the many lawmakers who hoped to squeeze a few more programs into this year's supplemental budget.
But the Washington State Budget and Policy Center argues that the answer to a weakening economy shouldn't be limited to cuts.
"State spending has a significant impact on the economy," research director Jeff Chapman says in a white paper released two days ago. Budget cuts can worses a recession, he says, and tend to hurt most the people who can least afford to lose the help.
Chapman argues that the stat should tap the "rainy day fund," a brand-new account designed to be a state savings account for emergencies. So far, however, Gov. Chris Gregoire has resisted the idea of dipping into a fund that was approved by voters only four months ago.
Chapman also says this is a good time to speed up the construction of schools, bridges, and affordable housing, as well as environmental cleanup projects. The resulting jobs, he says, will help local economies at a critical time.
He also argues for extending unemployment insurance benefits to help laid-off workers who will have a harder time finding a new job.