The state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council today produced its first official projection of state revenues since the onset of the COVID recession. An earlier unofficial projection of a decline in tax collections of $7 billion through June 30, 2023 has been revised to $8.8 billion in the quarterly revenue review. Of that, $4.5 billion is projected to be seen in the current biennium and $4.3 billion is projected for the two-year budget cycle that begins on July 1, 2021.
During Washington state economist Steve Lerch’s presentation on the revenue review to the council, he presented a number of economic indicators – consumer confidence, small business optimism, and employment, noting they declined by historic proportions in March and April and then showed slight recovery in May. He also highlighted job openings in Seattle and statewide which lag behind national trends. While future growth is forecasted, it will take considerable time to return to previous levels for these economic indicators.
It should also be noted that the Workforce Education Investment Account, which funds the Washington College Grant and WSU’s College of Medicine in addition to a number of higher education programming, is forecasted to reduce for both the current biennium and 21-23 biennium.
The governor and legislative leaders are contemplating a special session of the Legislature to take actions to begin to close the budget shortfall. The revenue forecast provides fundamental details to inform that decision.
Gov. Jay Inslee today signed a supplemental capital budget that advanced a key project for WSU Vancouver but approved a series of vetoes in the operating budget that signaled the demise of a requested soil health research initiative.
The WSU Vancouver Life Sciences Building will be funded for design under the capital budget approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor. WSU had requested $4 million to design the project. If funded for construction, the facility will provide sorely needed capacity to support students seeking STEM degrees and space for research.
The governor vetoed $235 million in new spending in the operating budget in an attempt to reduce state obligations as the COVID-19 crisis significantly curbs economic activity and state tax collections. Some 147 different items were vetoed, including WSU’s request to fund the Soil Health Initiative, a collaboration with the state Department of Agriculture and Conservation Commission to develop and disseminate new strategies to improve soil health.
It is expected the Legislature will be convened for a special session to help address the financial crisis. The next forecast of state revenues is June 17.
Governor Inslee signed Senate Bill 6139 on Thursday afternoon, reauthorizing the Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation and extending the center’s sunset date to June 30, 2030.
Established in 2012 by the Legislature, JCATI has a $3 million biennial appropriation which funds seed grants for research in the aerospace industry at state institutions of higher education. About $1.2 million of those funds, on average, have funded research projects at WSU in each biennium. It was initially scheduled to sunset this year on June 30, and now is extended through June 30, 2030.
The bill received unanimous support in both the House and the Senate.
The Legislature adjourned Sine Die this evening, concluding legislative business for the 2019-21 biennium.
Approved in the final days were operating and capital budgets that made new investments in housing and mental health and appropriated $200 million to fund the state’s COVID-19 response. With an eye toward a possible recession, the Legislature scaled back spending a bit from levels proposed last month.
Legislative victories for WSU include $4 million in the capital budget to design the Life Science Building at WSU Vancouver. The building will provide much needed teaching and research space.
Successfully funded in the operating budget was the Soil Health Initiative, a multi-agency research and extension initiative between WSU, the state Department of Agriculture and the state Conservation Commission. Legislation was passed in tandem with the funding in the operating budget that formally establishes the initiative to develop new strategies to improve soil across the state and get those strategies into the hands of growers.
WSU’s final priority was reauthorization of the Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation. A bill passed by the Legislature and sent to the governor will extend its sunset date from 2020 to 2030. Established in 2012, JCATI was appropriated $3 million in the biennial budget to fund seed grants for research in the aerospace industry at state institutions of higher education. About $1.2 million of those funds, on average, have funded research projects at WSU.
The Legislature is not scheduled to convene again in a regular session until Jan. 11.
Following days of negotiations, the House and Senate released their joint capital and operating budgets today which fully fund two of WSU’s legislative priorities.
The capital budget compromise fully funds WSU’s $4 million request to design the Life Sciences Building at the Vancouver campus.
The operating budget compromise converts one-time money provided last year for the Soil Health Initiative to ongoing and adds $788,000 in annual ongoing funding to fulfill WSU’s request. The research and extension initiative is a collaboration between WSU, the state Department of Agriculture and the state Conservation Commission to develop new strategies to improve soil health and get those strategies in the hands of growers.
WSU’s final legislative priority, a bill that would reauthorize the Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation, cleared the House last week and awaits action from the governor.
Both budgets now await final floor votes in both chambers before the Legislature adjourns Sine Die on Thursday.
The state House voted out a bill this afternoon with bipartisan support that would formally establish the Soil Health Initiative.
Senate Bill 6306 is a joint collaboration between WSU, the state Department of Agriculture, and the state Conservation Coalition and establishes guiding objectives for the initiative. It also establishes reporting requirements for WSU, WSDA, and the Commission to provide progress reports every other year to the Legislature and the Governor on the state of the soil, beginning October 1, 2020. The bill previously cleared the Senate with a unanimous vote and now advances to the governor’s desk.
Most notably, the bill also funds new research and extension capacity at WSU and will not take effect unless funded. The bill was fully funded in the Senate budget but was not funded in the House spending plan. Legislative leaders are expected to craft a compromise plan to send to the governor before their March 12 scheduled adjournment.
A bill that would reauthorize the Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation cleared the state House today with a vote of 97-0.
The Center was established by the Legislature in 2012 with a $3 million biennial appropriation to support aerospace research and is slated to sunset on June 30. Senate bill 6139 would extend that date to June 30, 2030. About $1.2 million of JCATI funds, on average, have funded research projects at WSU each biennium.
The bill, which received a bipartisan 47-0 vote in the Senate last month, now heads to the governor’s desk.
A bill seeking to codify the Soil Health Initiative was heard before the House Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources committee. Senate Bill 6306 is a joint collaboration between WSU, the state Department of Agriculture, and the state Conservation Coalition.
“Washington is the second most economically diverse state in the country, with 300 different commodities produced across the state’s diverse agroecological landscape” told Chad Kruger, Director of WSU’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture, in testimony before the House Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources committee, “Soil health can enable more frequent planting of our highest value crops and helps suppress soil borne disease. You can watch testimony on the bill below.
While the House budget proposal did not include funding and the Governor’s proposed budget partially funded the Initiative, the Senate budget proposal released on Monday would fully fund the program.
The bill is scheduled to be voted out of committee on Friday.
Budget writers in Olympia on Monday released three separate budget proposals – two operating budgets and one capital budget – with two-and-a-half weeks left in this year’s legislative session.
The Senate operating budget fully funds the proposed Soil Health Initiative proposed by WSU, the state Department of Agriculture and the Washington State Conservation Commission. The House proposal released Monday does not.
The House capital budget proposal unveiled Monday does not fund WSU’s $4 million request to design the Life Sciences Building at its Vancouver campus as the Senate plan released last week does.
Both requests are still in play as budget writers work this week to pass their respective proposals to set up negotiations to reach compromise plans to send to the governor. This year’s legislative session is scheduled to adjourn March 12.
The building would bring much needed teaching and research space. Virtually all WSU Vancouver students would use the facility and it would provide enhanced space for existing teaching and research programs in neuroscience, nursing, and molecular biology.
WSU testified in support of the proposal during its hearing Thursday afternoon in the Senate, you can watch the testimony below. The House is scheduled to release its capital budget proposal on Monday.