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WSU Government Relations Newsbeat

WSU supports governor’s capital budget proposal in committee

In the second day of legislative activity, the House Capital Budget committee heard Governor Inslee’s proposed capital budget, which would provide $8 million to WSU to install compact shelving in Holland Library on the Pullman campus.

The renovation would allow WSU to install high-density compact shelving and consolidate space in Holland and centralize library collections from both Holland and Owen libraries. “We envision being able to repurpose space in Holland at a later date to add valuable student study and collaboration spaces that are in high demand on any college campus” said Chris Mulick, WSU Director of State Relations, in testimony to the committee.

This consolidation will also allow WSU to utilize the found space in Owen for academic instruction as part of a future renovation. You can watch Mulick’s testimony below:

WSU throws support behind SANE nursing bill

In its first committee hearing of the legislative session, the House College & Workforce Development committee heard a bill that seeks to expand important educational opportunities for nurses addressing sexual assault situations in Washington.

HB 1622, introduced by Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, would require the WSU College of Nursing to establish a sexual assault nurse examiner, or SANE, online and clinical training program and a program to develop and train lead SANEs.

Harborview Medical Center in Seattle provides such training in Seattle but the bill would provide opportunities on Washington’s east side. If the bill were to be approved and funded, WSU would offer online didactic instruction as well as the required on-site facility training. The program would be made available first in Spokane, with potential to expand to Yakima a year after.

As Washington’s land grant university, WSU provides dedicated research and education in service to state. Each legislative session a number of bills are introduced that, if passed and fully funded, would create research and education assignments for WSU. In the case of SANE education, WSU Director of State Relations Chris Mulick said “it’s natural WSU would be looked to for this, WSU is largest producer of nurses in Washington.”

The bill now awaits a vote by the policy committee.

You can watch testimony Mulick’s full testimony on HB 1622 here:

Legislature convenes, budget hearings begin

The Legislature convened for the 2022 legislative session today, beginning a 60-day supplemental session in a fully remote setting. While the state Senate had previously planned to include some in-person activity, it reverted course last week with the rise of COVID-19 cases.

In testimony before the House Appropriations committee this afternoon, state budget director David Schumacher noted that this budget will be unlike previous supplemental budgets which have historically featured marginal changes in state spending. “We have a considerable amount of one time federal money that was not appropriated in the last budget, totaling $1.3 billion dollars.” A number of challenges face the state this session, he said, noting public health capacity, housing affordability, transportation infrastructure, and challenges presented by climate change.

Last month, the governor’s operating budget proposal included funding for WSU’s top priorities. $7.3 million was provided to allow a 3.25 percent compensation increase for classified staff, with $5.1 million remaining to fund compensation enhancements for faculty, exempt staff and graduate students.

The operating budget proposal provided $4.448 million in requested annual funding to establish academic programs in cybersecurity at WSU in Pullman, the Tri-Cities and Everett. It also fully funded WSU’s $341,000 ask to develop a one-year psychiatric pharmacy residency program, a program being developed collaboratively with colleagues at the University of Washington.

Find WSU’s remarks on the governor’s budget below:

Governor budget proposal funds top WSU priorities

The governor’s supplemental operating budget proposal released this afternoon would fund WSU legislative priorities to enhance employee compensation, develop two new academic programs in cybersecurity, and build a psychiatric pharmacy residency program.

The governor’s budget provided $7.3 million for compensation enhancements. After a 3.25 percent increase for classified staff is fully funded under the proposal, $5.1 million is left for compensation enhancements for faculty, exempt staff and graduate students.

The operating budget proposal provides the requested $4.448 million in annual funding for WSU to establish two undergraduate programs in cybersecurity at the Pullman, Tri-Cities and Everett campuses to strengthen the state’s cybersecurity workforce. WSU is hoping to establish a new Bachelor of Science degree in Cybersecurity Operations through the Voiland College of Engineering and a new major in Information Assurance within the Carson College of Business’ Business Administration degree program.

The governor’s budget also fully funds WSU’s ask for $341,000 to develop a one-year psychiatric pharmacy residency program. It would enroll two residents per year and fund a faculty adviser, all of whom would be providing care in a clinical setting in Eastern Washington. The program is being developed in tandem with the University of Washington.

The proposal also includes $500,000 in the operating budget for WSU to work with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Commissions on African American Affairs, Hispanic Affairs, Asian Pacific American Affairs and the Governor’s Office on Indian Affairs to provide guidance to students of color in grades 6 and up who are interested in pursuing a career in medicine. This work has been a particular strength of WSU’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, where at least 40 percent of the student body is made up of students of color.

What’s more, the governor’s supplemental capital budget proposal provides $8 million to allow the Holland and Owen libraries to install high-density compact shelving, consolidating space to allow for the university to create new student support space in a future renovation.

The release of the operating and capital budget comes after the governor rolled out proposed investments earlier in the week to address climate change, salmon recovery, and homelessness. Other notable investments made in the governor’s proposed budget include support for poverty reduction and foster youth . You can view details of the budget here.

The state House and Senate will convene for its 60-day 2022 legislative session on Jan. 10 to begin writing their budget proposals in time to negotiate an agreement to send to the governor in March.

Compensation, cybersecurity, mental health top WSU legislative priorities

Washington State University is advancing to the Legislature three primary priorities to support faculty and staff and workforce needs in cybersecurity and behavioral and mental health. The Legislature is set to convene its mostly virtual 2022 legislative session on Jan. 10th, with a hybrid of in-person and remote activities.

The university’s largest request in the supplemental operating budget is for $9.365 million to provide compensation increases in the fiscal year of 2023. These funds will allow WSU to support existing employees who have experienced budget reductions and increased responsibility during the COVID-19 pandemic but did not receive a cost of living adjustment this year due to the pandemic. Facing increases in inflation, it would allow WSU to retain important staff and faculty who deliver the university’s tripartite mission of teaching, research and public service.

The university is also requesting $4.448 million to establish two new undergraduate programs at three campuses to bolster the cybersecurity workforce in Washington. The first is a Bachelor of Science degree in Cybersecurity Operations that would prepare students to design and create secure networks, methods of transporting data and security measures such as firewalls. This program would be housed within the university’s Voiland College of Engineering. The second degree program, housed in the Carson College of Business that would utilize their Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration degree, is an Information Assurance major that would train students to devise security strategies and policies for their employers, analyze attacks and assess risk tolerance. If funded, these programs would be offered at WSU campuses in Pullman, Tri-Cities and Everett.

The final request WSU is advancing for the supplemental session is for $341,000 to establish a one-year pharmacy residency program that would train two residents each year in Eastern Washington. This request has been brought forward in tandem with a similar request by the University of Washington, as both institutions seek to enhance training and expertise in Washington communities on mental health for pharmacists.

The governor is expected to release his proposed 2022 supplemental budget next week. Leaders in the House and Senate will begin working on their versions in January.

You can find WSU’s 2022 legislative agenda here.

Extension professor presents practical solutions to food insecurity to Senate Ag committee

Washington State University Associate Professor Trevor Lane presented to the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks committee on Tuesday, briefing the committee on work WSU Extension is doing to combat food insecurity and poverty in rural communities using greenhouse technology and other solutions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lane, who also works as a State Specialist with Extension, noted that challenges facing rural communities during the pandemic in food insecurity were not unique, “COVID-19 has definitely brought to light some of the things we deal with on a regular basis for more people.” The three elements to the problem facing food systems noted by Lane were access, affordability, and adoption. In practicality, this has meant the ability to grow local and throughout the region in a connected way that allows for distribution of food in different Washington communities.

Through Extension, Lane detailed solutions that are being offered to eastern and northeastern Washington communities. They are assisting with technology integration on small farms and ranches, which will help improve their crop and outputs and supporting their workforce through upskilling on these new technologies.

To help further educate and measure improvements in technology systems and food systems that will prevent insecurity and poverty, Lane shared that Extension is in the process of establishing a statewide Community and Economic Development Certificate program that they hope improves quality of life in all Washington communities.

You can watch his presentation to the committee below.

State revenue forecast continues to improve, increases by $898 million in the current biennium

The quarterly state economic and revenue forecast was adopted this morning during the November meeting of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. The forecast will be used by the governor as he crafts his 2022 supplemental budget proposal to be released in mid-December, ahead of the 2022 legislative session.

The revenue report estimated an increase to the state’s current budget by $898 million, projecting a total fund of $60.2 billion in the current 2021-23 biennium. It also improved the next biennial budget by $965 million, totaling $64 billion in the 2023-25 biennium.

Steve Lerch, Executive Director of the Council, reported that the increase in the state’s economic outlook is due to a number of factors. Among those is a financial institutions tax that was upheld by the state Supreme Court last week, along with stronger-than-expected growth in retail and real estate sales and slightly stronger construction employment. Additionally, state tax collections continue to show stronger than projected with the last two revenue reports showing $292.2 million or 7.3 percent higher than the September forecast.

However, potential downsides to the forecast that were detailed by Lerch included higher inflation and national flattening of COVID-19 cases after a few weeks of declines. Also, goods prices rose at their fastest annual rate in 30 years during the month of October. Despite this, consumers continued to buy as US retail trade sales increased in the same month.

The state Office of Financial Management, the governor’s budget office, released a statement that can be found here and the full report from the Council is here.

September revenue forecast maintains growth

State revenues continue to improve in both the current and future biennial budgets, according to a new outlook report on Friday.

The September revenue forecast projected an increase of $927 million in the current 2021-23 biennium and $931 million in the next biennium, 2023-25, during a presentation to the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.

Uncertainties remain as the state wrestles with a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in past weeks, along with supply chain issues in some sectors and possible increases in inflation. However, economic trends continue to hold and the state economy is expected to outperform the national economy in both employment and personal income growth.

The forecast assumed that the Congressional Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will pass and builds on strong monthly revenue reports which came in higher than projected in every month since the last revenue forecast in June.

The ERFC will produce one more forecast this year on November 19th, which the governor will use to craft his supplemental budget to be considered during the 2022 legislative session.

Congressional Update – Budget Resolution and Infrastructure

You have probably read about the large funding packages under consideration in the Congress allocating billions of dollars to physical and human infrastructure. Newspapers across the state are reporting that billions of dollars will be coming to the State of Washington – that might be true – but the process in Congress to get to that point is convoluted, confusing and not immediate, despite what is being reported.

I wanted to take some time and outline the state of play and the process because this is important to WSU. We need to start thinking about how we best coordinate to utilize this once in a lifetime opportunity of federal funding to support our students, institution, and research.

There are several paths currently going forward in Congress addressing federal funding streams:

FY 2022:

The first is the “normal” FY 2022 annual appropriations process.  WSU Office of Federal Relations engages in this process on an annual basis through programmatic request letters and support for increasing funding in federal accounts we utilize to support our research and students.

Every year, Congress is required to consider twelve bills to fund the federal government.  Within these bills, Congress gets into program-by-program funding levels for things like NIH, NSF, Agriculture Research Service, NASA, DOD and more.  For the first time in over a decade, the Congress is also allowing for congressionally directed spending for specific projects, otherwise known as “earmarks”; we are keeping an eye on this process as well.  The key date is September 30, the end of the federal fiscal year, when these twelve bills are supposed to be completed.  Both the House and the Senate are currently moving through this process.  Money appropriated through this process is intended to be obligated during the next fiscal year.

It is unlikely that the Congress will complete all its work on the FY 2022 Appropriations process prior to the end of the current fiscal year.  In the event that Congress does not finish by Sept 30, they will likely pass a short-term Continuing Resolution or “CR” that will fund the government at current levels for a specified period of time until such time that they are able to complete the process.

Infrastructure:

In addition to the normal appropriations process, this year the Congress is considering two multi-trillion packages to support investment in infrastructure in response to the economic impact of the pandemic and the spotlight on our country’s infrastructure needs.

The first package is the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (“BIF”) – a $1.2 trillion bill that includes reauthorization of existing infrastructure programs as well as $550 billion in new funding for grid and water infrastructure, roads, bridges, transit, rail, broadband, ports and more. This package has been highlighted as part of the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better plan to support physical infrastructure.   BIF was passed by the Senate on August 10 by a bipartisan vote of 69-30 and the bill now heads to the House of Representatives.

The House passed its version of a “hard” infrastructure bill, the INVEST in America Act, on July 1 by a bipartisan vote of 221-201.  The INVEST in America Act is a $715 billion surface transportation reauthorization and water infrastructure bill.

The House and Senate must now reconcile the differences between their two approaches.  There will be tremendous pressure for the House to keep the Senate’s version as intact as possible to keep the bipartisan agreement together – any changes the House makes will require the Senate to vote on it again before sending it to the President for his signature.

Complicating passage of the infrastructure bill is the tying of its legislative fate to passage of the other components of the President’s Build Back Better Plan associated with “human” infrastructure i.e., education and workforce training, healthcare, social services & etc. (more below).  Because there is not bipartisan consensus on the need for or scope of these initiatives, the majorities in the House and Senate will utilize a separate legislative process that requires only a simple majority – Budget Reconciliation – to move this through the legislative chambers.  Narrow majorities in both the House and Senate make threading the needle on this pretty difficult.  Members at the progressive end of the political spectrum want to ensure their more moderate colleagues vote to pass the Reconciliation package by delaying a vote on the “hard” infrastructure bill until after the “human” infrastructure package passes.  Conversely, a group of moderates in the House, large enough to prevent passage of anything, is demanding that the “hard” infrastructure bill hit the President’s desk before they will advance the Budget Reconciliation process.

We will get more insight into how this plays out when the House returns for a schedule session the week of August 23rd.  Strong, bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate want an infrastructure package signed into law, but we have a ways to go before that will happen.

Budget Resolution and Budget Reconciliation

This second package establishes a Budget Resolution framework of $3.5 trillion in what is being called “human” infrastructure investments to be offset by new tax revenues, health care savings and economic growth.   This package will include provisions that directly affect the federal budget — whether mandatory spending, taxes, or both including;

  • Funding for deferred maintenance
  • Agriculture infrastructure,
  • Funding for infrastructure at our national labs,
  • Climate funding across federal agencies,
  • Extension of tax credits,
  • Expansion of Medicare,
  • Tuition free community colleges,
  • Increased investments in PELL grants,
  • Workforce development,
  • Investments in health care including pandemic preparedness, health equity, native health, and investments in primary care.

This is also where it also gets a bit complicated, as within the Budget Resolution, there are two separate processes underway.

First is the Budget Resolution itself, which is a nonbinding guiding document that does not require the President’s signature to implement, allocates how much money House and Senate Committees are allowed to raise and spend and provides direction on where to allocate the money.  The second is a result of the Budget Resolution process – Budget Reconciliation which is the legislative vehicle that implements the recommendations of the Budget by having the committees of jurisdiction draft bill language specifying how these funds will be allocated.   The Senate passed the Budget Resolution early Wednesday morning (August 11) by a vote of 50-49 sending the recommendations to the House, which is scheduled to come back the week of August 23 to consider the package.

Once the House passes the Budget Resolution, Senate and House committees have soft “deadlines” of Sept. 15 to produce legislation carrying out the instructions.  Because that deadline is in the Budget Resolution, the date, like the document is not binding which means that since the September 15 date is not a statutory requirement – this process will likely take a lot longer.  Regardless, once the committees consider their instructions from the Budget Resolution, they send their proposals to the House and Senate Budget Committees which then assemble all the individual portions into one piece of legislation – the Budget Reconciliation bill – and this document will be considered by both the House and Senate.

Budget Reconciliation is complicated process used rarely to avoid a procedural requirement in the Senate that requires a 60-vote threshold to move legislation. Rules around the Budget Reconciliation process require a simple majority of votes in both the House and Senate to pass – leading to what the respective leadership hopes to be a clearer path to passage of the $3.5 Trillion package.

There is one check point you will start to hear about as this process moves forward: the “Byrd rule,” named after the late Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia.  The “Byrd” rule allows any member of the United States Senate to call a point of order against any provision of (or amendment to) a reconciliation bill that is deemed “extraneous” to the purpose of amending revenue or spending. If a point of order is raised and sustained under the Byrd rule, the offending provision is automatically stripped from the bill unless at least 60 senators vote to waive the rule.   Despite this challenge, the final Budget Reconciliation package will likely be passed by a partisan vote in both bodies of Congress sometime this fall.

The programs being contemplated by both the infrastructure and Reconciliation bills are multi-year, agency led efforts.  Getting money out the door will require planning, and in some cases rulemaking, before being obligated.  This will take some time.

What does this process all mean for WSU then and how is the Office of Federal Relations engaging with our delegation?

It is in this process that WSU will be advocating directly with our members of Congress for funding for deferred maintenance costs, agriculture infrastructure, increasing the Pell grant, funding for workforce training programs, funding for the power grid and grid security, amongst other things.

Please let me know if you have any questions and I look forward to working with you on behalf of WSU’s students, faculty and staff.

Glynda Becker Fenter

Assistant Vice President for Federal Engagement & Advocacy

Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland’s WSU Puyallup Research & Extension Center Visit

WSU’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center (PREC) was honored to host Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland yesterday where she met with WSU researchers to learn about our research and work impacting the Puget Sound.  CAHNRS Associate Dean of Research Scot Hulbert and PREC Director Todd Murray introduced the Congresswoman to the WSU faculty and students who are doing the work to help protect the Puget Sound through the Washington Stormwater Center and associated Low Impact Development (LID) research installations and the Aquatic Toxicology Lab. Water Quality and Stormwater programs at WSU Puyallup are focused on one of the state’s most critical issues: polluted run-off (stormwater) and the resulting degradation of healthy aquatic environments. These programs result in new and more effective stormwater management practices committed to improve, restore and sustain healthy fresh and marine water systems.

Congresswoman Strickland is serving her first term in Congress representing the PREC and is the co-chair of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus with Congressman Derek Kilmer.  The Caucus, which was founded in 2013 by Rep. Kilmer and then-Representative Denny Heck, focuses on recovering Puget Sound through steps like preventing pollution from urban storm water runoff, protecting and restoring habitat, restoring and re-opening shellfish beds. Rep. Strickland, who was elected in 2020, replaces Heck as Co-Chair.

Congresswoman Strickland was joined by her Senior Outreach Representative Sean Dewitz.