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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Feb. 27, 2024

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WA legislature to update $70B budget, Hawkins cautious on spending, citing national economic uncertainties


OLYMPIA — A little more than a month from the next legislative session, Sen. Brad Hawkins is concerned by the state’s level of spending due to “uncertainty” in the national economy.

The state’s $69.8 billion operating budget for the 2023-2025 biennium funds day-to-day operation for areas like early learning, K-12 education, higher education, health and human services, criminal justice, natural resources, and courts.

“Despite the COVID pandemic and national economic uncertainty, state revenues remain somewhat positive, with more dollars flowing into the state than what was projected originally,” Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, said in a legislative preview Tuesday.

The upcoming session begins Jan. 8 and will focus on updating operating, transportation, and capital budgets for the 2023-2025 biennium.

Hawkins serves on the Higher Education Committee and Transportation Committee and is the ranking member of the Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.

He noted that it’s unclear how economic factors, like federal interest rates, gas prices, home values, and past inflation, will affect state revenues over the next two and four years, and added that some economists have forecast revenues will flatten in the next two to four years.

“I have concerns about the sustainability of the overall state budget if future revenues flatten or decline,” Hawkins said. “It is my preference that the state set aside more funding in its reserve account to weather any reduced revenue situations.”

The 2023-2025 transportation budget will allocate $85 million to Wenatchee’s Confluence Parkway project over the next budget cycles: $28 million in 2023-2025, $47 million in 2025-2027 and $10 million in 2027-2029.

The project will build an additional bridge over the Wenatchee River. Construction is expected to begin in 2025.

The 2023-2025 capital budget provides $1 million to the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center to help fund its future expansion and redesign project.

The 2024 session is scheduled to last 60 days. Lawmakers meet each January but alternate between long and short legislative sessions: 105 days in odd-numbered years and 60 days in even-numbered years.