State Capitol

OLYMPIA — Washington state is facing a reduction in projected state revenues of about $8.8 billion over the next three years due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, new numbers released Wednesday show.

The number is higher than the $7 billion predicted during an unofficial forecast that was prepared at the end of April.

Lawmakers — who are expected to be called into a special session by Gov. Jay Inslee sometime this summer — must first contend with the impact on the current on the approximately $53 billion two-year budget that ends mid-2021. That shortfall — nearly $4.5 billion — means that even if lawmakers use all of more than $3 billion in total projected reserves, they will still have a significant amount to balance through either cuts or new revenue.

The projection for the next two-year budget that lawmakers are tasked with writing at the start of the next regular legislative session in January is more than $4.3 billion in projected reduction in revenues from July 2021 through mid-2023.

Last month, Inslee issued a directive freezing most hiring and signing of personal services contracts and purchasing of equipment, and the state’s budget office sent a letter to state agencies telling them to find ways to cut 15 percent from their current budgets. Agencies started submitting their budget proposals with suggested cuts this month.

On Wednesday, Inslee ordered cabinet agencies to cancel a scheduled 3% raise for agency directors and exempt employees who earn more than $53,000 a year, affecting nearly 5,600 employees. Union-represented and non-represented classified employees will still get the scheduled raise on July 1.

Inslee also announced that starting no later than June 28, more than 40,000 state employees will be required to take one furlough day per week through July 25, and then will be required to take one furlough day per month through at least the fall.

Inslee’s office said that the canceled pay raises and furloughs are expected to save about $55 million over the next year. Inslee urged other agencies not under his authority — including the Legislature, higher education and statewide elected officials — to adopt similar measures, which his office said would save an additional $91 million.

The Legislature has already taken action, with the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee on Tuesday adopting several reductions, including a 12-month suspension of a 2.5% increase for all employees. The House has also frozen salaries effective July 1, according to Bernard Dean, the chief clerk of the House.

Washington’s stay-at-home order was in place from March 23 until the evening of May 31, and the state’s 39 counties are currently in the process of moving through a four-stage phase in for lifting of restrictions. The state’s unemployment rate jumped to from 5.1 percent in March to 15.4 percent in April after businesses closed or reduced operations.

As of this week, 11 counties are in Phase 3, which expands group gatherings to 50 or less, including sports activities, and allows restaurants to increase capacity to 75 percent. Gyms and movie theaters can reopen at half capacity during this phase. Twenty-two counties are currently in Phase 2, which allows restaurants and taverns to reopen at half capacity with limited table sizes, hair and nail salons and barber shops to resume business, and retail stores to reopen for in-store purchases at 30% capacity. It also allows additional outdoor recreation and gatherings with no more than five people outside of a person’s household.

Three counties — Benton, Franklin and Yakima — remain in Phase 1, which only allows essential businesses to be open and limits restaurant service to takeout and delivery and allows limited outdoor recreation.

King County— the state’s largest and home to Seattle — was recently approved to move to a modified Phase 1 and will now allow all outdoor recreation permitted in Phase 2, expand opening indoor fitness studios for one-on-one activities, allow restaurants to begin opening indoor seating at 25% of normal capacity and allow hair stylists and other personal services at 25% capacity. Two other counties — Chelan and Douglas — are also in a modified Phase 1 of reopening.

More than 26,500 people in Washington state have tested positive for the virus and at least 1,231 have died. The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, and the vast majority recover. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

(7) comments

cryingtoddlerlibs

This story is public notice that the clown in Olympia will be thinking up some new tax to pay for Jaybones "stay home" order

JohnQPublic

You're talking about teachers, right? They are the ones who should have their salary cut because they weren't doing the job they were hired to do?

opinionscrossroad

Not ONLY teachers but how many government employees are still getting paid 100% of their salary and benefits but not doing 100% of the job they were hired to do??

The state highway department "delayed" doing projects, the courts are closed, the licensing department is closed, the unemployment is closed, the schools are closed. Most EVERY government office that serves the public was closed but yet they still got paid to "work from home" or to "go into the office" and "find work".. Some jobs can be done without ever seeing the public -- Most public servant jobs cannot .. So if you cannot do the job due to a change in the job's classification and requirements, why should it pay the same??

That's my point..

JohnQPublic

Wow, a minor amount of fiscal responsibility. Is there hope yet?

opinionscrossroad

NO there is no hope.. His "CUTS" come out to less than .002 of a percent of the yearly budget.. 55 million saved out of 27 BILLION yearly budget.. Big DEAL!! Maybe some other State workers salaries should also be cut since they were NOT WORKING for the job they were hired to do.. Crazy idea I know!! But as one state worker told us on this very website.. "Educators" deserved to be paid because they went to college..

This Governor, Idiot Inslee, shut down an entire State's economy.. What did this MORON think was going to happen when he kept it shut down for such an extended period.??

HolidayFartcruiseOthello

You are correct @opinionscrossroad. That 'idiot' should have let people that don't believe in things that they can't see contract and spread this quickly. The survivors can bury the dead and care for the maimed just like any other conflict. Think about how the next generation will be so much closer to the stone age! They will learn some character after vaccines are no longer allowed, due to this type of thought process. Nothing builds character like being one of three surviving siblings out of twenty, I tell you what! Good thing that slavery wasn't real, or Hitler's death camps, or the Rwandan genocide, and don't forget that the Earth is flat and 5G towers caused all of this. In fact, there is a great number of things that people do to each other or spout across the internet like a reversed sewage line that really make a 'simple flu' look friendly, so friendly that you would want your kids to date it.

@cryingtoddlerlibs Here is 14 internet points. Go over to the prize booth, cash out and go home.

@JohnQPublic "Educators" have had more to do, in a brand new environment for most K-12 faculty, than they did when they had to ride herd on the lowest common denominator that keeps flooding the classrooms. It really seems like some people have the ability to know what it is like to do a job without ever having done said job.

Why is the answer to any tough situation a neanderthal knee-jerk denial, blame someone that is not exactly like me, and avoidance of the issue? All I really see here is more complaining about an issue and no suggestions on how to help. You don't like someone in politics? Maybe run for office? No? All right, support someone that does. Not from a zero liability platform like this. Put your mouth where your freedom comes from and do something helpful. Be part of change. Or at least go move in front of one of the wind turbines so some good comes from all this hot air.

opinionscrossroad

Yep Holidayfarcruise.. ABsolutely NO IDEA what you are talking about.. Governor Idiot Inslee SHUT DOWN an entire state's economy.. Put HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of people out of work.. Made it mandatory that you don't even have to pay your bills to people you owe money too.. And now is crying that the STATE cannot pay it's bills.. If you make stupid choices without thinking about how that is going to affect things in the long term don't complain when you have to actually deal with the mess you have made..

Do I personally believe this Virus is bad.. Of course, do I believe it's catastrophic or could be an end of civilization.. ABsolutely NOT!! It's a bad virus that is going to run it's course WHETHER we like it or not. IT CANNOT BE STOPPED.. We are YEARS away from a Vaccine. It affects only a SMALL SMALL percent of the population (I am sorry for that group) but on the grand scheme of things it's pretty pathetic and single minded to not look at what everyone is dealing with.. Most of us will never be individually affected by this Virus but we are all feeling the wrath of people trying to make us all part of this.. AGAIN, if you are going to be affected by this.. (high risk) then take EVERY precaution but if not then don't worry about it..

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