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WSU Government Relations Newsbeat

State revenue forecast improves

The state’s operating budget deficit was cut in half Wednesday when a new report improved the outlook for the rest of the current fiscal year and the two-year budget cycle set to begin July 1.

The Economic and Revenue Forecast Council improved the bottom line in the current biennium by $2.2 billion and by $2.4 billion in the 21-23 biennium. You can read its full report here and you can find the press release from the state budget office here.

While undoubtedly good news, there remains much downside risk in the economy and anticipated revenues could slide once more in future forecasts. Some unanticipated economic activity occurred as the result of federal stimulus efforts that are unlikely to be repeated. Further, any shift in aerospace production would have significant ripple effects throughout the state.

The Council will produce another forecast in November. The governor will use assumptions made in that forecast to write his 2021-23 operating budget proposal. The Legislature will draft its proposal based on the subsequent forecast that is likely to be issued in February.

WSU researchers present on cannabis study efforts

WSU faculty specializing in cannabis research this week told a legislative panel their wide-ranging portfolio is dependent upon collaboration with outside stakeholders.

In a virtual work session before the state House of Representative’s Commerce & Gaming Committee, researchers Michael McDonnell, Ryan McLaughlin, Dr. Celestina Barbosa-Leiker provided legislators just a sample of the university’s cannabis research that is funded by proceeds from 2012’s Initiative 502, which decriminalized cannabis in Washington.

McDonnell, Associate Professor at the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and Chair of the Collaborative for Cannabis Policy, Research & Outreach shared that the research collaborative has conducted 73 projects, leveraging state funding to secure external funding to support  $4.1 million in research activity.

“We believe as a land grant institution that we are better together” shared McDonnell, referencing collaborations and close partnerships with the Liquor and Cannabis Board, Washington State Department of Agriculture, Washington Health Care Authority, the University of Washington Cannabis Research Center, the Tribal-Qwibil Consultation Research Center and the national Council on Government Research’s Cannabis Research group.

McLaughlin, Assistant Professor at the WSU College of Veterinarian Medicine, works in the Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience program at WSU. He presented his research in modeling cannabis use in rodents and how he has used that to subsequently model use of cannabis in human populations such as adolescents or pregnant women.

Barbosa-Leiker, Vice Chancellor for Research at WSU Spokane Health Sciences and Associate Professor in the College of Nursing, shared her research on cannabis use by pregnant and parenting women. One of the articles she has authored and presented studied the women’s perceptions of risks and benefits of cannabis use during pregnancy and postpartum, where she found that the overarching theme of pregnant and parenting women was taking care of the mother and the baby.

You can view the full presentation below (starts at 1:28:30):

State revenue projections fall by $8.8 billion

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.

You can find the press release from the state budget office here.

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.

Governor signs operating, capital budgets

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 signs JCATI bill, reauthorizing program until 2030

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.

Legislature adjourns 2020 session

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.

Compromise budgets fund Vancouver Life Sciences Building in Vancouver, Soil Health Initiative

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.

Soil Health bill clears House, moves to governor’s desk

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.

JCATI reauthorization approved by House 97-0, bill heads to governor’s desk

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.

Soil Health Initiative heard in House

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.