It’s the 64th legislative day and it kicks off a week that followers of the legislative process have been awaiting – if not eagerly. At noon on Thursday the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council is scheduled to release its latest quarterly forecast of state tax collections.

It’s this report that legislators will use to determine how big the next biennial budget can be. And leaders in the House of Representatives are hoping to release their budget proposal by as soon as next week.

But all signs are pointing to another dismal forecast. Actual tax collections during the past three months have fallen shy of expectations by $85 million, an ominous sign. It’s now expected Thursday’s forecast could increase the size of Washington’s already sizable budget shortfall by as much as $1 billion or more. That would require even deeper cuts than what already are being contemplated.

Otherwise, after last week’s floor cutoff legislators are back in committees this week hearing bills. Senate bills are now being heard in House committees and House bills are being heard in Senate committees. Policy bills have to be moved out by March 25 to stay alive.

On the docket this week of interest to WSU is today’s hearing on House Bill 1422, which would authorize the Department of Natural Resources to develop a demonstration project involving the use of forest biomass in the production of aviation fuel. WSU has been a leader in the bioproducts arena and will be testifying in support.

On Tuesday WSU will be testifying in support of House Bill 1586, which would allow doctorate programs at branch campuses. And on Wednesday, WSU will be testifying in support of Senate Bill 5636, which is the North Puget Sound University Center bill.