Washington budget shortfalls could impact services you use

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The pandemic has forced us to change our spending habits. Businesses closed, which means no money coming in for them. This also means no taxes going to the state. It’s short almost half a trillion dollars.

The money in the state budget pays for a lot of things we count on such as education and mental health. The shortfall is already impacting us next year. According to the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, the state is projected to have a $1.4 billion dollar shortfall by the end of 2021.

RELATED: Washington’s budget forecast bleak in the wake of COVID-19

Currently, the state gives public schools $27.2 billion. This applies to K-12. Spokane Public Schools is already dealing with budget issues and they get 81% of their money from the state.

Higher education could also see a hit. The budget allocates $4 billion to colleges and universities. Eastern Washington University has already felt the financial impact. Community Colleges of Spokane could also see budget cuts. The state Office of Financial Management asked them to prepare for a 15% reduction in the state budget allocation. They wouldn’t see the $11 million they get from the state. This is due to the loss of state tax revenue due to COVID-19.

The office also sent the letter to government agency directors and state elected officials. In the letter, they suggest ways to save money. Some of those suggestions include reducing programs, delaying the implementation of programs and hiring of employees.

The budget also pays for human services you use such as mental health and health care. It also does to the Department of Corrections and other government agencies.

“We’re not waiting to deal with this shortfall. We’re acting,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “We have already found ways to reduce expenditures this biennium by hundreds of millions of dollars.”

This statement comes hours after Gov. Inslee announced the cancellation of scheduled 3% wage increase for some government employees. This will impact nearly 5,600 general government employees including agency directors, Exempt Management Service and Washington Management Service employees. It’ll also apply to exempt employees who make more than $53,000 a year.

Additionally, 40,000 employees will need to be furloughed.

Economists say over half of the decrease in taxes, which funds the budget, is from declining sales tax and property deferrals.

“As we look forward, I hope that we heed the lessons of the last recession, which we are still under the shadow of in mental health and the like,” Gov. Inslee said, “so we have some tough decisions coming up.”

RELATED: Inslee cancels some state employee raises, announces need for furloughs

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