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WSU Government Relations Newsbeat

Coug Day at the Capitol

This week over a 100 WSU students from every campus (including the Global Campus!) swarmed Olympia to participate in Coug Day at the Capitol as part of their annual day of legislative advocacy. The event, which is organized by the Associated Students of Washington State University, allows students from all campuses an opportunity to meet with Washington state legislators to discuss higher education priorities.

On Sunday students heard from ASWSU Alumnus Hayley Hohman, a former student lobbyist. Monday morning began addresses from Rep. Jared Mead and WSU Director of State Relations Chris Mulick on the Capitol steps. They then split into groups before embarking to meet with lawmakers about their legislative agenda. That agenda includes:

  • State Need Grant Expansion – Increase the Median Family Income threshold to 100% (it’s currently at 70%) and increase maximum allowance for students from families under the 70% threshold through HB 1123.
  • Protect the Washington College Promise Coalition Scholarship Program – Reclassify the program (previously dubbed the ‘State Need Grant’) as an entitlement program under HB 1340/SB 5393 in order to protect funding from budget cuts.
  • Expedite passing lane construction on State Route 26 – Lawmakers set aside funding for four new passing lanes along SR 26 last year, but the project isn’t set to begin until 2025. Students are pushing to start earlier to prevent any more students from tragically losing their lives along this stretch of highway.
  • Mental Health Resources – Increase state public funding for full-time licensed mental-health counselors on each of the university’s campuses and support for SB 5053, which standardizes certification requirements for college campus mental health counselors.
  • Veteran Tuition Waivers — Support HB 1178 which would expand the definition of eligible service members to include anyone with a general discharge under honorable conditions.

The day was also highlighted by the raising of the WSU flag in the flag circle on the Capitol campus. The flag-raising was a reward for WSU students’ winning Gov. Inslee’s Student Voter Registration Challenge over student bodies from the state’s other public four-year institutions.

You can check out more details on the day’s events on twitter under hashtags #CougDay2019 and #CougDayAtTheCapitol

Senate committee advances Regent Frost nomination

WSU Student Regent Jordan Frost wowed the crowd this week during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee. Frost, who’s earning his master’s degree in teaching, gave an inspiring overview on public education’s positive impact on his life and the work he’s done in student leadership roles dating back to his elementary school days – which received a remark of gratitude from Representative Holy who appreciated Frost’s “pattern of stepping up” into these challenging rolls.

Frost expertly fielded questions from the committee about his vision for how he’d like to see the University progress over the next five years and how he manages to engage the student body in university affairs. Frost, who’s been serving on WSU’s Board of Regents since last July, says he’s been focused on university reputation, saying he wants to make WSU “the first choice for people around the state.” As for being able to communicate these ideas to students and beyond, Frost praised Twitter. “That is a place I was able to connect with a lot of WSU students,” Frost said of the social media platform, noting how “its reach went far and beyond just our state.” He even pointed out that committee chair on the panel, Senator Guy Palumbo, was included among his followers online.

You can view Jordan Frost’s full confirmation hearing and subsequent approval below — and if you’re as impressed by him as we are, you can check out his twitter feed here. His confirmation now heads to the Senate floor.

WSU supports Governor’s Capital Budget proposal

Washington State University testified in support of the Governor’s Capital Budget proposal this week as it was heard in both House and Senate.

The Governor’s proposal funds a number of the University’s top legislative priorities, including several projects which will assist the university in accommodating enrollment growth in STEM disciplines. Notably, the proposal includes construction costs for the Tri-Cities Academic building, design funding for WSU Vancouver’s Life Sciences Building, and pre-design funding for a new health sciences building at WSU Spokane.

The Governor’s plan also includes full funding for the Global Animal Health Phase II Project. The university’s top capital budget priority received partial funding from the Legislature in 2018. The university is requesting $36.4 million in 2019 to complete construction of the facility, which will be the new home of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab – Washington’s only accredited veterinary diagnostic lab which protects public health and animal agriculture by monitoring for various infectious diseases.

For a complete list of projects included in the Governor’s Capital Budget, click here.

You can view WSU’s testimony on the Governor’s Proposal in Senate Ways & Means below.

Monthly revenue collections report shows steady increase

The Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council has posted its monthly revenue update for January indicating that revenue collections between December 11, 2018 and January 10, 2019 came in slightly above the November forecast.

Cumulatively, this raises collections to 2.4 percent above the forecast projection which came out in November once you back out unplanned, one-time payments to the state.

The report notes rapid growth in personal income in Washington. Additionally, Washington’s unemployment rate remained the same at 4.3%, continuing the third consecutive month that the state’s unemployment rate has been at an all-time low dating back to 1976.

Monthly collection reports will help to inform the next quarterly forecast of state revenues due out March 20. The Legislature will use that forecast to write the 2019-21 biennial operating budget it will send to the governor this spring.

WSU testifies in support of Governor’s proposed operating budget

Washington State University issued its support of the Governor’s 2019-2021 biennial operating budget proposal during a hearing before the Senate Ways & Means Committee Tuesday evening.

The budget proposal, put forth by Governor Inslee back in December, includes $10.8 million to complete funding for third and fourth year instruction of the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine’s original class of 60 medical school students per cohort. The university is seeking an additional $3.6 million to support a planned growth to 80 students per cohort in Fall 2019 — though the governor’s budget contains other funds that could support that — as demand for specialists in core health sector disciplines across rural Washington continues to rise.

Additionally, the Governor’s proposal includes $15.4 million in compensation funding for WSU faculty and staff, $2.8 million to support a soil health research and Extension initiative, and expands the Washington College Promise Scholarship (formerly the State Need Grant) to serve an additional 6,000 students in the 2019-20 academic year, and an additional 12,000 students in 2020-21.

The Senate will consider testimony from last night’s hearing as they begin drafting their own budget proposal over the next month.

You can watch WSU’s testimony below.

USDA ReConnect Program Announced

The ReConnect Program is a new pilot program that offers unique federal financing and funding options in the form of loans, grants, and loan/grant combinations to facilitate broadband deployment in areas of rural America that don’t currently have sufficient access to broadband. This pilot program hopes to generate private sector investment to deploy broadband infrastructure to provide high-speed internet e-Connectivity to as many rural premises as possible. With this program, USDA is offering $600 million in loans and grants through a new initiative to help expand access to broadband in underserved rural areas. The program will prioritize projects that seek to deliver higher-speed connections to rural homes, businesses and farms. Projects funded under the ReConnect Program must create access speeds of at least 25 megabits per second upload and 3 mbps download. Projects must also serve populations of fewer than 20,000 people, with grants expected to be awarded to more sparsely populated areas.

USDA Rural Development will host a series of informational webinars and workshops to provide more information on the ReConnect Program.

Please visit USDA Reconnect for up-to-date information on these events.

For further information, please note the following attachments;

USDA ReConnect Webinar Flyer

USDA ReConnect Program Factsheet

ReConnect Program FAQ

2018 Farm Bill Update

Good Afternoon Cougs –

The 2018 Farm Bill has been sent to the President’s desk for signature and we expect him to sign the bill next week. This marks the first time since 1990 that a Farm Bill will be enacted in the same year that it was introduced. The conference report, which reconciles the differences between the House bill and the Senate bill, passed the House by a margin of 369-47 and the Senate by 87-13, indicating overwhelming support for the 2018 Farm Bill.

You will recall that Washington State University is a major recipient of USDA funds. We are pleased to relay that this Farm Bill represents a tremendous success for WSU and for the State of Washington. The majority of our priorities were well taken care of in the compromise bill. Attached is an overview of WSU priorities and the outcome, overview documents from the House Agriculture committee, and information on some programs that will be of interest, including on rural broadband.  These documents provide top level provide top-level analysis – if you have further questions, please reach out directly to Glynda Becker-Fenter, Director of Federal Relations.

WSU’s work on Farm Bill has been an 18-month process done in collaboration with the Washington State Department of Agriculture and with a strong coalition of the agricultural producer, grower, and processor stakeholders in our state. This success is our collective success and a credit to our work together. It also represents strong internal partnership. To that end, Colleen Kerr Vice President of the Office of External Affairs and Government Relations wants to thank CAHNRS Dean Andre Wright, CVM Dean Bryan Slinker, and Vice President for Research Chris Keane for their collaborative partnership and Glynda Becker-Fenter for her leadership on this months long process.

We very much look forward to working with you as USDA implements the Farm Bill.

Happy Holidays and Go Cougs!

Government Relations Team

Farm Bill Summary

Politico.FarmBill analysis


What the Governor’s budget proposal would mean for WSU

The two-year operating budget proposal released today by Gov. Jay Inslee partially funds WSU’s $14.4 million request to fund operations of the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and would provide for small compensation increases for faculty and non-classified staff over the course of the biennium.

Notably, it also included foundational funding and other enhancements allowing the university to address key priorities.

The governor also released a capital budget proposal that funds construction of the Global Animal Health II project in Pullman and a new academic building in the Tri-Cities, while also advancing design and pre-design projects at WSU Vancouver and WSU Spokane, among other priorities.

The governor’s proposals are the first among a set of three that will set the table for final budget negotiations in April. The Legislature convenes in January to begin drafting its versions. Both the House and Senate will produce operating and capital budget proposals before negotiating a compromise to send to the governor.

For WSU, the operating budget proposal included the following:

  • $10.8 million for the medical school to complete funding for cohorts of 60 third and fourth year medical student slots. The university is also requesting an additional $3.6 million to fund the first and second year of a 20-seat expansion.
  • $15.4 million for compensation for faculty and non-represented staff. WSU is requesting $38.4 million to fund two increases of 4 percent each.
  • $2.8 million for a soil health research initiative.

The operating budget proposal also includes funding for the State Need Grant, changing the name to the College Promise Scholarship, in an attempt to have it fully funded to serve more than 93,000 students by 2022. Also included were investments to support  expanded career connected learning opportunities for students.

The governor’s capital budget proposal included the following.

  • Full funding of WSU’s $36.4 million request to complete construction funding for Global Animal Health II in Pullman, the new home of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab.
  • Full funding of WSU’s $27 million request to build a new Academic Building at WSU Tri-Cities
  • Full funding of WSU’s $4 million request for design of a new Life Sciences Building at WSU Vancouver
  • Full funding of WSU’s $500,000 request for predesign of a new Health Sciences Building at WSU Spokane.

Getting to know WSU’s new medical students

Legislators in Vancouver and Everett this week got acquainted with some of WSU’s 60 new first year medical students during lunch events on WSU campuses, finding an alignment with the mission of the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.

“I chose WSU because of the mission statement to serve underserved populations,” one student said.

“WAZZU has a different mission statement,” another said. “Everyone talked about public service, but WSU has a program around it.”

WSU’s 60 first year medical students were in their designated regions this week, training in hubs at WSU campuses in Richland, Spokane, Everett and Vancouver. It was the second of three weeks of clinical training they’ll get during the academic year. Students will return to their designated regions for the entirety of their third and fourth years of training.

The lunch events are designed to introduce legislators to the students they’ve supported while providing students with the opportunity to engage with policy makers. In both locations, legislators found students who were attracted to WSU’s mission to serve the underserved.

One student at the Everett event talked of having spent time serving underserved populations overseas, then she realized that “there are so many people in my own community that needed help. They need help right here. I’m so happy I’m here.”

Several already had life experience working in various fields, including military, health and education. “The role of a doctor is to provide medical care, but it is also to be a community player,” one student said. “WSU fits that vision of what a doctor can be — a leader and a community player.”

In Vancouver, several students spoke about their decision to commit to WSU as a “no brainer.”

When asked about the application process one student shared about WSU’s family feel: “They really did want to get to know me.” Others spoke to efforts to ensure students care for themselves first. “Every week they would ask ‘how are you feeling?’” one student said.

“The school tends to lean towards working together,” one student said to describe the program’s model. “It’s not about who is most important, it’s about everyone coming together to treat the patient. It’s about bringing the best care to our patients, and the school really practices that.”

Students appeared energized by the opportunity to get into actual clinical settings.

“I’m looking forward to having a really good grasp working with live patients,” one said. “We have a very patient-focused program.”

State revenue forecast up again

A new forecast of state tax collections released Tuesday has increased projections for the current 2017-2019 budget cycle by $163.4 million and for the 2019-21 budget cycle by $196 million.  This pushes total revenue projections to $45.8 billion for 2017-2019 and $50 billion for 2019-21.

This forecast will be used by Gov. Jay Inslee to draft the budget proposal he’ll unveil next month. The Legislature convenes Jan. 14 to begin writing its budget proposals and will have the benefit of one more forecast due out March 20 before releasing them.

Tuesday’s report found that Washington’s unemployment rate declined to an all-time low of 4.3% in October from 4.4% in September. New risks to the forecast included the uncertainty of trade partnerships in the purposed European Union and United Kingdom split.