April 10, 2013

Today House Majority Democrats At noon released budget proposals for the 2013 – 2015 biennium.  Now that we the former and current governors’ budget proposals and plans from the House and Senate, we can quadrangulate to estimate where the final budget will land (…….of course if I really could do that with any precision, I could make a fortune as a contract lobbyist….but I digress).

First, a look at the House operating budget proposal: Key aspects of the operating budget included the following:

  • 3% + 3% tuition increases for CWU, EWU, and TESC, and 5% for the other baccalaureates. Under the House agreement, CWU could choose to increase tuition beyond budgeted levels (and incur certain “mitigation” requirements), but it would be better to get that authority in the budget. We will try.
  • Budget language states that collective bargaining agreements for WFSE and PSE are funded, but the numbers are not apparent in this or any other budget document. The Senate and Gregoire budgets instruct institutions do not provide a separate line for this funding, instructing institutions that they have enough to meet requirements. The House budget is a little more specific. The specific section language is there — but no money. More investigation required.
  • Funds associated with the 3% salary reduction are restored.
  • The budget provides $2.76 million for “improvements in student completion and retention rates in order to increase the university’s four-year graduation rate.”
  • A proviso provides $25,000 to conduct a study identifying the duties encompassed in a state-funded teacher’s typical work day.  This is a study we anticipated based on conversations with a legislator who toured our campus and was appropriately impressed with our College of Education.

A side-by-side comparison of the four budget proposals is coming to this post soon.

The capital budget is unbelievable. It proposes to fully fund nearly every university priority. Here are the proposed funding leveles (in millions of $)

  • Science Building   – $63.483
  • Combined Utilities – $6.2
  • Nutrition Science – $2.921
  • Peterson Hall Replacement – $4.092
  • Brooks Library Learning Commons- $3.337
  • Minor Works – Preservation $7

Science II is now robustly funded in all four budget proposals. Four other large requests—combined utilities, NEHS, Peterson hall and Brooks Library—are well funded in three of the four budgets. As a result, CWU is very well positioned as caucuses begin budget negotiations in earnest.

What about our Samuelson proposal? CWU had the mixed fortune this year of having two big projects in the construction category–together totaling more than $120 million. Science II was one, prioritized just ahead of the Samuelson Communication & Technology Center.  SCTC is slated to replace the southern half of the existing old Samuelson and renovate the northern half. Together it will be a state-of-the-art facility for the Dept of Communication, Information Technology, and Public Affairs. It also would provide facilities for the creation of compelling on-line academic content. Cool stuff, right?

Just as great is that we finally would return to service a large, dilapidated chunk of university property.  It would transform the space between the SURC and Samuelson and the Japanese Garden, opening it up as a sort of Red Square – incredible open space for all kinds of activities.

Anyway, having two amazing projects in the construction category is relatively rare. Two remarkable projects, each more than $60 million–competing with each other as well as with every other baccalaureate.  There is no chance one institution would have been allowed to gobble up half of the capital construction budget.  Instead the Samuelson Communication and Technology Center will come before the legislature again in 2015 and we’ll be ready.


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Senate Majority Caucus Releases Gloomy Operating Budget Plan

The Senate Majority caucus yesterday at noon released a plan for the next two fiscal years.  Alas, it appears to contain more bad news than good, but, like the Inslee proposal, there is much that is murky.

Here’s what we think we know. The Senate proposes “only” a cut of about $500,000 for “administrative efficiencies” and assumes no tuition increase. A 20% surcharge system-wide on international students generates a pot of money that the Senate would redistribute to “restore core academic functions.”  Imagine, if you can, the consternation of institutions that boast significant international populations, whereas CWU welcomes just over 300 this spring.

The Senate budget assumes classified collective bargaining agreements will be funded out of “maintenance-level funds” (a real cut of about $82,000) and asks employees to pay more for health care, including smokers, who will be pinged $25 more a month. Low-income, part-time employees would be moved to “Obamacare” under this plan.

Not included in the budget proposal but part of the promotional materials for the budget is an assumption that tuition revenue will be cut 3%, or about $4 million over the next two years. Here is a link to the TVW coverage of the proposal, including links to the actual bill, promotional materials, and video of the news conference.

The Senate did not release a capital budget proposal. The Senate Republicans have long been on the record as trying to reduce the bond debt associated with the capital budget. But they also may be waiting to collect votes on the operating budget before making any promises in the construction budget.

We’re looking forward to seeing what the House Majority has to offer, probably middle of next week.  Below is a summary of the budgets that we have seen so far.





 With Policy Change





  • Administrative Efficiencies










Tuition Rate Change

0%, 0%

3%, 3%

0%, 0%

-3%, 0%

  • RUG Tuition





*SB 5883

  • 20% surcharge on international students (assumes 40% HC drop)




(est. $2.3)

**SB 5893



  • “Restore Core Academic Functions




  • Performance Funding




  • STEM Enrollment Pool





Health insurance



(? cost shift to employees; low-income employees shifted to federal insurance)






(Without surcharge)

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Inslee releases budget proposal to mixed higher ed reviews

This morning Governor Inslee presented a budget plan for the 2013-2015 biennium.  There is good news and not so great.

Good news first. Inslee’s capital proposal mirrors that of Governor Gregoire, a record $97 million that fully funds five of CWU’s top six priorities:

  • Science Phase II ($65.4)
  • Combined Utilities ($8)
  • Nutrition Science ($4)
  • Peterson Hall ($4.9)
  • Brooks Library ($4.9)

 Not so great news on the operating budget side. Inslee’s budget is better for CWU than was the Gregoire budget, which, as you will recall, included no cut but no tuition increase at all.  The Inslee proposal includes no cuts and allows CWU a 3 percent tuition increase.  This iwould leave CWU $1 million short of the funding needed to implement the university’s six-year budget plan in FY 2014 and $5 million short FY 2015.

 Inslee’s budget didn’t come in bill form, although there are numbers in there. Here’s what it seems to include.

  • 0 cuts to higher education
  • 3% tuition increase for comprehensives and 5% for research instutions. But universities could choose to go beyond these rates if they comply with the HB 1795 requirement to mitigate the impact to students.
  • 0 funding for enrollment at baccalaureates; $20 million for enrollment at community colleges, which already receive more money per FTE student ($2900) than comprehensive universities do ($2600)
  • 3% salary cut restored for full carry-forward of $70 million
  • $11 million set aside to be RFP’ed to baccalaureates for “high-demand” STEM programs
  • Collective Bargaining Agreements funded (PSE and WFSE).


Next budget out will be the Senate–probably next week. Then the House. Last day of session is April 28 – one month away.



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Shot at and Missed: Revenue Forecast Doesn’t Disappoint

The state Economic & Revenue Forecast Council today released good news: the budget trajectory is flat.

This brings to mind a Churchill quote that goes something like, “Nothing in life is so exhilarating as being shot at and missed.”

Legislative rumors had revved into high gear last week, anticipating a $500-million hit to the budget as a result of the federal sequester. Here’s part of the good news, courtesy of the estimable Jim Camden at the Spokesman Review:

Revenue forecast: Good news and bad

OLYMPIA — Washington can expect two more years of slow economic growth, and may collect slightly less tax money than it expected over the next two years, the state’s economist said today.

In other words, “No real major changes,” Economist Steve Lerch said. “We still see lots of uncertainty out there. The downside risks are a little bit above the upside risks.”

The economic and revenue forecast says it may also collect slightly more tax money than expected before June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

“It takes a hard problem and doesn’t make it worse,” Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said. “It’s still a hard problem.”

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Legislature Passes Halfway Mark, Readies for Budget Season

As you will recall from having studied your session cut-off calendar, the legislative clock ticked past the half-way mark last week. On March 13, House bills had to have been voted out of the House and Senate bills out of the Senate to be viable.  I will post a “dead bill” list later, with the understanding that even dead bills should be considered to be on life support until the session is over.  

In addition to being driven by legislative deadlines, the budget process pivots on state reports that define the size of the budget. On Thursday one of those reports came out. It’s the job of the  Caseload Forecast Council to tell budget writers what their baseline obligation is: how many kids in school, people in prison, clients needing Medicaid. It turns out that our bills for Medicaid will be about $300 million more than anticipated because of a miscalculation in how much of the tab the feds would pick up.

Next week, on the 20th, the Revenue Forecast Council will report how much money the legislature will have to spend–how much cash taxes and fees have generated. Unfortunately, the news is not expected to be very good. The initial March update says that revenue is flat. But policymakers are expecting that the effects of the federal budget sequester will poke a $500 milllion hole in the budget. Tune in, to see.

The House and Senate have been feverishly developing budgets so that they can release them as soon as the forecasts are out. CWU fiscal and government relations staff have been fielding all sorts of requests for budget information. Essentially they boil down to tweaks in the budget recipe: tuition + state support + miscellaneous = two-year budget.

These tweaks are usually accomplished with the questions, “Exactly what will you spend this on? How many more degrees will you produce?   How many in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math?

So what’s next?  Actually House Republicans were the first out of the gate with a 2013-2015 budget proposal this year.  The Senate Republicans will be next (last week of March), then the House Democrats (first week of April).

Meantime, bills are moving forward. Here’s an update, fresh from Wednesday’s big cutoff.



Welcome to the CWU Bill Watch. This table spotlights bills of particular interest to the university. For comprehensive bill information please see http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/. Bills marked with a * have moved forward in the process since the last bill update. No bill is dead till the end of session, particularly if it can be considered “necessary to implement the budget.”




Estimated Status



SB 5559 Authorizing CWU and WWU to offer the Education Specialist degree *House Rules
HB 1866 Continues state funding for the Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation, under the joint operations of the UW and WSU. *Senate Trade
SB 5180 Establishes a legislative task force on improving access to higher education for students with disabilities. *House Rules
HB 1858 Requires each institution of higher education to adopt a policy to award academic credit for military training. *Senate Higher Ed
HB 1669 The BOT must notify students at least six months before establishing a new self-supporting, fee-based degree program or change a state-funded degree program to self support. *Senate Higher Ed
SB 5559  Authorizing CWU to offer the educational specialist degree. *House Higher Ed


HB 1841 Authorizing electronic competitive bidding for state public works contracting *Senate Gov Ops
HB 1405 Creating a competitive grant program for informal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. DEAD House Capital
HB 1769



Increases the threshold for minor works projects from $2 million to $5 million, and for predesign from $5 million to $10 million for higher education institutions. Permits the regional universities to enter into financing contracts for real property, that are not subject to allotment or appropriation by the Legislature and are payable only from local fees and revenues. *Senate Ways & Means




HB 1739 Requiring guidelines for the percentage of resident, nonresident, and foreign students at institutions of higher education.


DEAD House Rules


HB 1453  Allows students carrying 3 quarter credits to be eligible for the State Need Grant DEAD House Approps
HB 1817 Makes some undocumented students eligible for the State Need Grant and the College Bound Scholarship. *Senate Higher Ed
SB 5195  Allowing WGU to participate in the state need grant program. *House Higher Ed


HB 1872

SB 5755

Defines STEM education. Develop develop evidence-based approaches to enhancing STEM education. Creates WA STEM Education Innovation Alliance to advise the governor *Senate Early Learning

*House education



HB 1043 Removes the authority for public baccalaureate institutions to set differential tuition rates for resident, undergraduate programs


*Senate Higher Ed
SB 5420 Enacts a two-year freeze on tuition IF the state provides no less than $225 million for the six public baccalaureates. DEAD Senate Ways & Means
SB 5421  Declares that the policy of the state is to: 1) Improve the access to and the quality of postsecondary education; and 2) Provide a level of fiscal commitment commensurate with the responsibility of the state to the educational and professional improvement of its citizens


DEAD Senate Higher Ed
SB 5390 Provides incentive funding to institutions that demonstrate improvement on existing performance measures. Requires OFM to convene a “technical incentive funding model task force” to design an incentive funding model to support the incentive program. DEAD Senate Higher Ed
HB 1829 Restricts annual tuition increases for resident, undergraduates to no more than the rate of inflation through the 2018-19 academic year.

Removes the criteria for setting tuition relative to state funding and tuition at similar institutions in the Global Challenges states.

DEAD House Rules


SB 5318 Removing the one-year waiting period for veterans or active members of the military for purposes of eligibility for resident tuition. *House Higher Ed


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State Supremes Rule Super Majority Unconstitutional

Perhaps you, too, heard talk radio rants today about the state Supreme Court “legislating from the bench!” and goin’ all activist on us when they struck down the super majority legislative rule that Washington voters have approved five times. In a 6-3 decision, the court said the requirement violates the state constitution.

The question before the court wasn’t, “Are the voters right?” or, “Is a super-majority a good idea?”

The question was, “Is requiring a two-thirds vote to pass a bill constitutional?” They said no. Why? Because they can read the Washington State Constitution.  So can you. Here’s Article II, Section 22:

SECTION 22 PASSAGE OF BILLS. No bill shall become a law unless on its final passage the vote be taken by yeas and nays, the names of the members voting for and against the same be entered on the journal of each house, and a majority of the members elected to each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor. 

Kaboom. Pretty straight forward.

If you loved Initiative 1053 or any of its predecessors, you will be pleased to know that Republicans on the Senate Ways & Means Committee had a constitutional amendment ready to go as soon as–and probably before–the ruling was handed down. Senate Resolution 8205  amends the constitution to require a two-thirds vote of both the House of Representatives and the Senate to increase taxes or fees. (Ironically, it did not need a super majority to move forward in committee, though amending the constitution does require a two-thirds vote of each chamber, as I recall…..) 

Next for SR 8205? A trip through the Rules committee to the Senate floor. If it can get a super-majority vote, then it’s on to the House where it’s future might reasonably be predicted to be none too rosy. Time will tell.

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Supreme Court to Review Supermajority Vote

The Washington Supreme Court may rule today on the constitutionality of a Washington law that requires two-thirds approval of the state legislature to increase taxes and feeds. Washington voters have approved a “supermajority” law five times.


Last spring the league of Women Voters and several other groups challenged what was the latest version of the law, Initiative 1053. Superior Court Judge Bruce Harrell said the state constitution stipulates a simple majority is enough to pass tax increases and ruled the initiative unconstitutional. The case moved up the judicial food chain and the “Supremes” are to rule today.


Read more here.



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