Government Relations


State legislative agenda highlights medical school, base funding, North Puget Sound

Washington State University’s 2015 state legislative agenda highlights priorities to establish the state’s second publicly funded medical school, continue reinvestment in higher education, and deliver high demand degrees in the underserved North Puget Sound.

The agenda, found here, was presented to WSU’s Board of Regents last week.

The university is requesting legislation authorizing the university to pursue medicine as an academic discipline and $2.5 million in the operating budget to support accreditation activities for a school of medicine.

It also is asking state legislators to continue the reinvestment in higher education that in 2013 paid for investments in faculty and staff and high demand academic programs that allowed tuition to be frozen for the past two academic years.

The university is also seeking $61.1 million in the capital budget to build a new Academic Building at the Everett University Center. WSU is requesting $4.5 million in the operating budget to add 10 new majors to the center in four academic disciplines.

WSU outlines state legislative priorities

WSU highlighted reinvestment in higher education, the establishment of a school of medicine and continued expansion of the Everett University Center as top state legislative priorities Friday before the House Higher Education Committee.

The 2015 legislative session begins Jan. 12 but lawmakers in the House of Representatives were meeting in Olympia last week to be briefed on key issues they’ll face next year.

Speaking to the committee, WSU Director of State Relations Chris Mulick pointed out that, even with last year’s higher education budgetary enhancement, the university’s state appropriation is roughly equal to what it was in 1999 in real dollars unadjusted for inflation. At the same time, enrollment and the costs to support additional students have been growing steadily.


WSU aligns research, commercialization with state priorities

WSU is aligning its biotech research activities to meet the state’s priorities, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee was told during a work session in Olympia last week.

You can view video of the presentation below, featuring presentations by Jim Moyer, Associate Dean of Research at WSU’s College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, and Anson Fatland, WSU’s Associate Vice President of Economic Development and External Affairs.

Moyer discussed WSU’s involvement in developing patented technology on various plant varieties, pest control methods, bio fuels and waste treatment. Fatland explained how the university works to commercialize innovations developed in the labs.

State revenue forecast shows slow, steady growth

A report released yesterday projects growth in the state budget for next biennium, 2015-17, to have increased by $139 million since last forecasted in June. This brings the total Near General Fund to $36.7 billion for the 2015-17 biennium, beginning July 1, 2015.

For the current biennium ending June 30, 2015, collections are now projected to total $33.95 billion.

The governor’s budget office stated this is the third consecutive forecast projecting revenue growth after several years of decline or minimal increases.

“It’s encouraging to see this economic and revenue growth, but we are still climbing out of a deep hole,” said David Schumacher, director of the Office of Financial Management. “We have a lot of big budget challenges ahead.”

The next revenue forecast report is due on November 19. Governor Inslee will use that forecast to write his proposed 2015-17 biennial budget, which will be released in December. The Legislature is scheduled to convene on January 12 for the 2015 legislative session.

A busy week for Congress

Congress is back for what will probably be the last week of legislative work before the November election.  They are scheduled to vote on the Continuing Resolution (CR) on Thursday and adjourn Friday until the 12th of November when they come back for organization meetings.

It appears that Speaker Boehner has agreed to a deal that will keep the federal government funded through December 11, 2014 at FY 2015 levels; will extend the Ex-Im Bank into 2015 and will give President Obama the authority he asked for in order to train Syrian rebels.  This authority is scheduled to be done through a separate vote on an amendment to the CR allowing for a separate vote and full debate on the issue.

There is confidence that Boehner has the votes to get all this done – probably because his Members are starting to smell blood in the water with gaining seats and potentially the majority in the Senate as more pundits back here are predicting the Senate will flip.  For some of these members, politics is probably more enticing than fighting over a CR right now.

Last busy week before they go home to campaign.

Higher education funding shift outlined

The Seattle Times today published a handy explanation as to how it came to be that students now shoulder the lion’s share of the burden of funding their college education.

Historically, the state has funded most of it, keeping tuition affordable for the masses. But a steady decline in state funding, escalated by the periodic economic downturn, has replaced state investment with student tuition.  And service cuts were still required during the recession as well.

This comes as new questions are being raised about whether the state will cut its investment in higher education once again next year.

Washington State University and the Spokane Regional DC Fly-In: April 29-May 2

Washington State University was pleased to be involved with the latest Inland Northwest Chamber Fly-In  to Washington, D.C.   Organized by Greater Spokane Incorporated, the April visit brought together over 40 regional leaders representing business, civic, academic, tribal and health care institutions, as well as the Valley Chamber of Commerce, the West Plains Chamber of Commerce, and the Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene Chambers.   The trip provided the opportunity for Chamber members to advocate on behalf of important regional issues, including transportation infrastructure needs, the development of STEM networks, programs at Fairchild Air Force Base, and issues surrounding health care delivery.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-5)

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-5)

Over the course of two days, the group met with U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington, U.S. Senators James Risch and Mike Crapo of Idaho, Congressman Denny Heck (WA-10), Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers (WA-5), several senior Congressional staff, the Director of the Washington, DC Office for Governor Inslee, and Phil Moeller, Spokane native and commissioner with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  At virtually all of these meetings, Chancellor Lisa Brown of WSU Spokane was able to articulate WSU’s interests in expanding the number of primary care physicians in rural areas.  At present, of the 1600 residency slots in Washington State, only 100 of those are located in Eastern Washington.

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)

On the second full day of the Fly-In, participants broke into groups for follow-up visits with various federal agencies.  Team Fairchild headed to the Pentagon, STEM advocates traveled to the Department of Education, and health care proponents jumped on the Metro and headed out to meet with the director and senior staff from the Bureau of Health Professions and the Health Resources and Services Administration.   WSU was able to use this opportunity to highlight the community collaboration that has come together in the Greater Spokane area behind the region’s recent Teaching Health Center grant. Final meetings included a session with the Acting Deputy Secretary of Transportation and the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, as well as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the White House Business Council.  The Fly-In provided the opportunity for citizens of the Inland Northwest to advocate around important regional issues and bring a distinct regional voice to the proceedings.  It also marked the last Fly-In to be orchestrated by Rich Hadley, the well-respected and long-time President and CEO of Greater Spokane Incorporated, prior to his retirement.

Rich Hadley

Rich Hadley

Washington’s tuition increase second-highest since recession

A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that the state of Washington has experienced the second steepest tuition increase in the nation since the recession. The report, using 2013 data from the College Board, demonstrates that as the recession hit in 2008 and tax revenue dropped, the State Legislature relied on significant cuts to higher education baseline funding in order to balance the state budget.

The report comes at a time where there is a growing appreciation of the vital role of accessible and affordable public higher education. Data continues to show that a resilient economy is correlated with a well-educated citizenry. College graduates have refined skills and expanded opportunities in the job market, while also possessing the confidence and skills for life-long learning that motivates others to adopt similar goals.

According to a recent report by Pew Foundation, several critical measures of economic wellbeing and career attainment – from personal earnings to job satisfaction to staying employed full-time – college graduates are outperforming peers with less education. And in comparison with previous generations, the disparity in the economic outcomes between college graduates and those limited to a high school or less has never been greater.

With the evidence that a college education opens doors to better jobs, higher wages, and increased economic stability, the Center’s report demonstrates how deeply the state’s cuts impact higher education affordability for many students and families. In preparation for next year’s new biennial budget, the report opines that “[r]enewed investments in higher education will be needed to provide those graduating high school students a shot at a college education and a more prosperous future.”


Puyallup Research & Extension Center Featured at Congressional Roundtable

Dr. John Stark, Director of the Puyallup Research and Extension Center, was recently invited to participate in a roundtable discussion being hosted by the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus and its co-founders, Congressmen Denny Heck and Derek Kilmer.   The program, which took place April 9 in the US Capitol, was designed to bring together practitioners active in Puget Sound restoration efforts and other similar programs.  Dr. Stark was invited not only in his capacity as Director of the Research Center, but also in his role as Director of the Washington Stormwater Center.   Other panelists included Peter Goldmark, Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands; Dennis McLerran, EPA Region 10 Administrator; Jim Pena, Associate Deputy Chief, US Forest Service; and Al Todd, Executive Director, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.

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Congressman Derek Kilmer (WA-6) and Congressman Denny Heck (WA-10)

In his opening remarks, Congressman Heck noted that “WSU is doing important and groundbreaking work in Puyallup,” and that the Stormwater Low Impact Development Infrastructure at WSU Puyallup is the largest of its kind in the United States.  The Roundtable provided Dr. Stark the opportunity to highlight research presently underway at the Center which determines the effects of stormwater runoff from roadway surfaces on salmon health, and the effectiveness of green infrastructure—particularly rain gardens and various  bioretention soil mixtures—in removing toxics from that water.    Additional research is focusing on the effects of pesticides found in Pacific Northwest surface waters on salmon health.

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Congressman Derek Kilmer (WA-6), Congressman Denny Heck (WA-10) and Dr. John Stark, Director of the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center

Following the presentations, there was an opportunity for members of the audience to engage in Q&A with the panelists.  Organizations represented at the Roundtable included the US Forest Service, the US Geological Survey, the National Resources Conservation Service, the Nature Conservancy, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Congressional Research Service, the Ocean Conservancy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environment America and other congressional offices.

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Dr. John Stark, Director of the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center











Tax collections flat again

Tax collections are cumulatively up $25.7 million from a February forecast with collections for March coming in just $12.5 million higher than expected.

The cumulative growth in collections assumes a one-time assessment payment of $20.7 million that was not included in the forecast. Therefore, actual growth in total collections for March was $5 million.

The report issued by the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council also notes Washington personal income grew 3.2 percent in 2013 compared to 2.6 percent for the U.S. as a whole, while Washington job growth and housing construction has softened in early 2014.

Colleen Kerr, Vice President for External Affairs and Government Relations. 901 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2900, Seattle, Washington 98164. 509-335-5756. Contact Us.