Brown measure would take ‘real-world’ look at economic impact of revenue bills

Today the Senate unanimously approved a fiscal-reform measure sponsored by Sen. Sharon Brown that would establish a new approach for estimating the impact of large-scale revenue measures on the economy.

“The fiscal notes we are all familiar with only ask agencies to determine their actual cost of implementing a bill,” explained Brown, a vice chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “The dynamic fiscal statements envisioned under this bill would ask agencies affected by a revenue proposal to cast a broader net – to consider how people would shift economic activity as a result of the bill.

“We want to have a fiscal note that accurately accounts for the real implications of the legislation, enabling lawmakers and the public to see longer-term impacts and returns on investment.”

Fiscal notes are prepared by the state Office of Financial Management, which is the governor’s budget office. There is no ability to examine the real-time fiscal impacts.

Under Senate Bill 5443, which passed the Senate 49-0, the dynamic statements Brown proposes would be extremely limited. Only fiscal-committee members could request them, at least 60 days before a legislative session, and only for bills that would generate or decrease revenue by $10 million or more.

The bill also would establish a workgroup to explore the feasibility of creating a nonpartisan agency to provide fiscal analysis for the Legislature and to study the accuracy and reliability of fiscal notes.

“The more information, the better,” said Brown, R-Kennewick. “As we face tough budgeting challenges, we need to have a clear picture of how bills will ultimately increase or reduce the need for revenue; dynamic fiscal notes are a vital tool that must be in our toolbox as budget writers.”

The measure now heads to the House of Representatives for its consideration.