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The Briefing Room -- The CWU Blog Dedicated to Demystifying Government


CWU Briefing Room


“Politics is rough and sometimes it's dirty and it's always hard work and tedious details. But it's the only sport for grownups.”

― Robert A. Heinlein



January 28, 2019

It's time for a state legislature Q&A.

Question: Is the legislature in session yet?

Answer: Why yes!  As a matter of fact we are in day number 15. I know this because I checked the "cut-off calendar," which tracks every day of the session and highlights key deadlines, or cut-offs. The first one is February 22, when bills have to make it out of committee or they are considered relatively dead.

Question: What do you mean by "relatively" dead?

Answer: At just about any point during the legislative session, legislators may resuscitate a bill if they can scrape together enough votes.

Question: What are legislators doing now?

Answer: From now through February 22, legislators are composing bills and attempting to get support for them. Bills that have some support are aired in a legislative committee that deals with related subject matter. 

Question: How is Central doing so far?

Answer: So far so good. Last week a CWU contingent attended the Council of PResidents' annual legislative reception at Governor Inslee's residence. Our team included President Gaudino and Provost Frank, Vice President Jackson, Board Chair Erickson and Vice Chair Nellams, and our peerless Government Relations staff, Steve DuPont and Antonio Sanchez.  For the following two days the president and provost conducted about 20 meetings with policymakers, including testimony and two hearings.

Question: What higher education issues are policymakers interested in this year?

Answer: "Career Connected Learning" (CCL) is all the rage. This campaign is based on the assertion that "college isn't for everyone." Therefore, we should introduce students to "hands on" training in high school so that when they graduate they are prepared for a job in the trades or entry-level software development, or perhaps an internship. The CCL initiative is particularly interestedin addressing "critical gaps...when it comes to race, gender, and income." It doesn't appear that any of those proposing this solution has less than a bachelor's degree, but I may have missed someone. 


Dec. 17, 2018

Last Thursday (12/13/18) the governor released a set of budget proposals budgets for 2019-21. His budget is predicated on a proposed 21% increase in the budget with a $3.7-billion tax package. The ambitious increase was not greeted with the enthusiasm the governor perhaps had hoped for. Much of what the governor would like to do, in higher ed and elsewhere, will not be possible without the taxes he has proposed. If you would like to take a deeper dive into the budget pond, here is the governor's higher ed summary/lexicon.

Meantime, the key takeaways for CWU include the following:

Compensation: The 2017-19 biennial budget was the first time in recent memory that the legislature dipped into tuition funds to pay for state-approved compensation increases. The state split the funding 50/50 between the state General Fund and tuition funds.

Keep in mind that increases for  for resident undergraduate tuition are capped at about 2.2% per year--less than the rate of increase for the compensation tuition is helping to fund. CWU experienced this “fund split” in the 2017-19 budget as a cut of more than $3 million. I'm sure you can think of several reasons besides this math problem that make the use of tuition revenue a bad substitute for state funding for compensation.

The news may be better for 2019-21. Inslee proposes to fund compensation increases in the 2019-2021 biennium this way:
• State employees get two 3% increases, one each on July 1, 2019 & July 1, 2020
• The fund split is still there but is a smaller cut--$591,000.  And the proposal includes a curious array of funds to replace the tuition raid. 
      $5.299M state general fund
      $2.6M “Foundational Support,” which seems to replace some of the state’s use of tuition to fund compensation. In OFM-ese, the explanation of Foundational Support is: "Offset compensation and central services costs that exceed undergraduate operating fee revenue."
      $2.108M “Enhancements and Student Supports,” which seems to be a block grant that allows universities to spend on whatever they consider highest priorities. OFM description is, "Support academic program enhancements, student support services and other key university priorities that maintain a high-quality academic experience for students."

Health Sciences - $32M, not as much as we requested ($35M) but a good start to a long process and more than the $29M slated in the last four biennial budgets. CWU proposed the Health Sciences projects nearly eight years ago. Since then, construction costs have gone through the roof --- up as much as 35%, depending on what region, sector, and component of the construction economy you look at. 

Energy Efficiency $6.5M, which depends on $1.5M from our own, already inadequate Minor Works funds. Two years ago the governor provided $10M for the same request. CWU's excellent energy efficiency work has allowed us to grow our campus footprint without increasing our energy consumption, but those days are about to end with the addition of a 400-bed residence hall and a new science facility (Health). We need heating (boilers), cooling (chillers), and connectivity from the boiler plant to campus facilities.


Of course, the governor's proposals represent only the opening round of a very long process. Any final budget or policy matter takes approval of the House, Senate, and Governor.  And you can read more about those and other matters in future blog posts.


Dec. 3, 2018

Welcome to the new legislative season. In January the legislature will convene for a 105-day session. Arguably the most important product of the session will be the creation of new biennial budgets. One each for government operations, capital construction, and transportation. CWU has submitted operating and capital budget requests.

The first whiff of biennial budgets will come in about two weeks when the governor rolls out his idea of how the state should prioritize spending. 

Meantime, this week the legislature is meeting for "Interim Assembly," which is an opportunity for each caucus to finalize organization after the general elections and to preview bills shaping up for introduction in January. Our own Gail Mackin and Aaron Brown are presenting in a hearing tomorrow on the topic of student success. Here's the powerpoint they'll be using.

More legislative news is coming. But in the meantime, if there's something you'd like to read about or have a question about, please shoot me an email.






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