- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 21, 2016

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - An updated forecast shows Washington state is expected to rake in $336 million more in revenues than previously thought for the current two-year budget cycle.

That means lawmakers will have a little more money to deal with school funding and other pressing issues when they return to Olympia in January.

The state’s Revenue Forecast Council released its latest projections Wednesday. They show $38.5 billion in general fund collections for the two years beginning in July 2015. The council says its predictions for the 2017-2019 budget cycle are up by $134 million, to $41.2 billion.

The forecast council’s executive director, Steve Lerch, credits the “long, slow improvement in the economy” with driving the increased projections.

The state is now projected to have more than $1.8 billion in total reserves when the current budget cycle expires.

“Today’s increase in our revenue forecast is only modest, but it’s great to see our state’s economy continuing to move in the right direction,” David Schumacher, director of the Office of Financial Management, said in a news release. “Certainly, having nearly $2 billion in reserves will be a big help given the challenges we will face in the next biennium to fund education and meet other critical needs.”

The state Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that lawmakers were not meeting their constitutional responsibility to fully pay for basic education. They gave the Legislature until the 2017-18 school year to fix the problem, and ultimately found the Legislature in contempt in 2014 before sanctioning them last year.

The state has been assessed $100,000-a-day sanctions since last August. The money is supposed to be set aside in an education fund, something that lawmakers have not yet done.

Since the ruling lawmakers have spent more than $2 billion to address issues raised in the lawsuit. Schumacher said that the costs related to that court mandate are at least $3 billion.

Gov. Jay Inslee will release a supplemental budget proposal in December.

Lawmakers will return to Olympia in January, and the House and Senate will each present their supplemental budget proposals during the 105-day legislative session.

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