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Budget writers get $400 million boost from latest revenue forecast

by caprecord

The state is on track to collect about $400 million more in revenue in the current and upcoming budget cycles, giving legislative budget writers a boost as they attempt to negotiate a deal in the remaining 10 days of special session.

The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council expects the state to collect $327 million more in the 2015-17 cycle than previously projected. It also projects an additional $79 million more in the current 2013-17 budget cycle.

Construction, real estate and marijuana taxes are among the biggest drivers of the revenue increase, according to state economist Steve Lerch. He said the state is also enjoying a strong labor market.

“People continue to move to Washington. This is a desirable place to be,” Lerch said. “So we have seen more labor force growth than the U.S. That is helping to drive our economy at slightly stronger rates than what we’re seeing nationally.”

Economists are forecasting $1.1 billion in marijuana excise taxes and license fees through 2019, partially due to the passage of a Senate bill this year that overhauls the state’s medical marijuana system.

The House’s lead budget writer, Rep. Ross Hunter, raised concerns Monday about the “river of money” economists expect to flow from the state’s legal marijuana stores.

“If we write budgets assuming that and it doesn’t come true, I’m concerned what actions we have to take,” Hunter said.

Budget writers say they are continuing to talk as the state approaches the final stretch of the 30-day special session, which ends on May 28. If they don’t complete the budget by the deadline, lawmakers must go into another special session.

Lead Republican budget writer Sen. Andy Hill said the latest forecast makes their job easier than it was at the start of session in January.

“At some point you have to say, ‘Holy Cow, we have a lot of money.’ We should be able to get this job done very quickly. We are well beyond what you would think you would need to get out of town,” Hill said.

The forecast was scheduled to be released in June, but was moved up to May to help lawmakers as they continue budget negotiations.

Watch the revenue forecast below:

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