Washington state faces $5.1 billion budget shortfall

Washington faces a bigger-than-expected budget shortfall of at least $5.1 billion in the 2009-11 cycle, raising the specter of immediate spending cuts to balance the books.

The state's slowing economy knocked $1.9 billion out of the state government's expected revenues over the next 21/2 years.

Gov. Chris Gregoire's budget director, Victor Moore, said he sees no need for a special session of the Legislature, which will convene in a regular session Jan. 12 in Olympia anyway. But he plans to talk with the newly re-elected Democratic governor about executive orders she can issue to cut state spending immediately in light of the shortfall.

State revenue forecaster Arun Raha said the revenue slump is caused by an unprecedented drop in consumer spending that grew out of the national credit freeze that "exploded" into a crisis in September.

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