WA budget writers face challenge with updated forecasts

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by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on March 20, 2013 at 5:23 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The Governor’s budget office called the latest budget revenue forecast “good news,” but the lawmakers who will be writing budget proposals said they still have a challenge ahead of them.

The latest forecast did not change much from the predictions in November.

According to the state Office of Financial Management, Washington now faces a $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion shortfall for the 2013-15 budget cycle.

“Flat is the new up,” said Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, the top budget writer in the state House of Representatives.

Hunter added, “We have a hard problem to resolve. This doesn’t make it worse.”

Hunter said the budget proposal coming out of the House soon may include new tax increases.

Republican Senator Andy Hill, R-Redmond, said the budget the Senate will propose later this month will be balanced without additional revenue.

Both Hunter and Hill agreed on one thing.

Social services will likely see cuts under each of their budget proposals.

That concerns Susan Atkins.

“We’ve taken our share of cuts these last years,” said Atkins, whose adult daughter, Alexa, receives help from the state.

Alexa Atkins is a 29-year-old with Down Syndrome.

She gets health care from the federal and state governments and free one-on-one job counseling from the state.

That enables her to work two part-time jobs so she can pay rent at her own apartment.

“I still love my parents and I still love my sisters,” Alexa told KING 5 News, “But I wanted my own bathroom.”

Her mother is afraid budget cuts could force Alexa, and others like her, to move back home.

“It just puts people in such a stress situation,” said Susan Atkins.

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