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WSU Government Relations Newsbeat

State update for Thursday April 7, 2011

The House Ways and Means Committee last night approved a handful of amendments before moving the House operating budget proposal to the floor.

Most notably for WSU was an amendment that would limit how much money the university would have to hold in reserve as a sort of performance incentive fund.  Originally, the proposal called for $4 million to be held back each year.

To get the money the university would have to demonstrate certain performance improvements to be determined later.  Because it’s money the university wouldn’t be certain to receive, it’s money that is difficult to budget for.

An amendment approved last night would limit that holdback to just the first year of the two-year budget cycle set to begin July 1.

While the House budget now awaits a floor vote, leaders in the Senate are expected to roll out their proposal in the next week or so.

You can read more about the House budget and other budget proposals on the WSU budget page.

UPDATE: WSU President Elson Floyd comments here on the House budget proposal in a new Perspectives column.

Federal update for April 5, 2011

Discussions continue today between the White House, Senate, House of Representatives and the two political parties to come to terms on a long-term Continuing Resolution (CR) which would fund the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year 2011.  The current short-term CR will expire this Friday, April 8th and the hope is that a deal can be negotiated by the end of the week.  If a long-term CR is not passed by Friday, the House is preparing an additional one week CR that will extended government operations until April 15th.

If no long-term CR agreement is reached by Friday, and no short-term CR is passed by the House, the federal government will shut down and a majority of federal employees will be furloughed and prevented from working even on a voluntary basis.  If you have pending business with a federal agency that you were expecting to conduct next week, you should reach out to your contacts as soon as possible to understand potential impacts on your specific program, and steps to take in the event a government shutdown does occur.

In addition to the continuing negotiations around the remained of fiscal year 2011, the House Republicans unveiled their 2012 budget outline yesterday.  You can read their proposal at http://www.roadmap.republicans.budget.house.gov/.

State update for Tuesday April 5, 2011

Leaders in the state House of Representatives yesterday afternoon released their proposed operating and capital budget proposals and it’s expected the Senate will soon follow with theirs.

The operating budget proposal, which would close a budget shortfall of more than $5 billion mostly through major spending cuts, would cut WSU’s state appropriation by about $109 million, or 26.6 percent. By comparison, the governor’s budget proposal cut the appropriation by $98 million, or 23.8 percent, though that was crafted in December before the most recent revenue forecast eliminated another $780 million in funding over the course of the remaining months of the current two-year budget cycle and the new one that starts July 1.

The budget proposal assumes tuition increases of 13 percent for resident undergraduates.

Though budget writers assumed the Legislature would continue to set tuition limits, WSU and other universities are still pursuing legislation that would grant them tuition setting authority.

The House Capital budget proposal most notably would provide $35 million toward WSU’s $70.8 million request for its proposed Biomedical and Health Sciences Building at the Riverpoint campus in Spokane. It’s the university’s top capital budget priority.

The proposal partially funded WSU’s $5.8 million request for design money to support the proposed Clean Technology Laboratory on the Pullman campus by providing $2.5 million.  It also provided $27.5 million for minor works preservation but nothing for the minor works program, a key priority that helps make small but high value building improvements and equipment purchases.

The Stadium Way pedestrian bridge at Nevada Street would be replaced under the plan at a cost of $2.5 million.  It also includes $250,000 for predesign of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory on the Pullman campus and $1 million of an $18 million request for renovation of what some day will be the Design Disciplines facility.

State update for Tuesday March 29, 2011

It’s day 79 of this year’s legislative session and the big news of the week is still to come.  Leaders in the House of Representatives could release their budget proposal any day now.  But given the great complexity and difficulty in plugging this year’s multi-billion-dollar budget gap, this release has been delayed.  We’ll post an update and outline the impacts on WSU once the proposal has been released.

Yesterday, four WSU regents joined colleagues from the state’s other four-year universities to present a united front in meetings with legislators on the Capitol campus.  Laura Jennings, Scott Carson, Harold Cochran and Connie Niva all participated in group and individual meetings with members from all four legislative caucuses.  They and their colleagues pressed for a strong state commitment to higher education and for approval of legislation that would grant universities the authority to set their own resident undergraduate tuition rates.  Bills are being developed in both chambers.  Regents stressed that they would be good stewards of such responsibility.

In other news, we’re just days away from the next legislative cutoff.  All fiscal bills must be advanced from the budget committee they’re resting in by Friday.  Of course, bills that are deemed necessary to implement the budget are exempted from cutoff and this year there may be a great many of them.

One bill that needs to move by Friday is Senate Bill 5636, the North Puget Sound University Center bill. We’re working to get a hearing scheduled for that right now.  In its current state, the bill would require an academic plan drafted for the region by WSU to be submitted to the Legislature for review.  It would be deemed approved were the Legislature not to take further action on it during the 2013 legislative session.  WSU would then assume management of the center in 2014.

State update for Friday March 24, 2011

One of the questions I get most often from Pullman centers around the status of the higher education regulatory reform package in the Legislature.  And it’s routinely one of the most difficult to answer.

By way of background, last year our state’s universities were asked to develop a list of measures that might offer some measure of relief at a time when budgets are being cut and staff is being increasingly overburdened. Some of the measures that were forwarded would save the universities actual money. Others would relieve staff of certain burdens.

Generally, the individual measures ranged from relieving universities of some duplicative reporting requirements to easing restrictions on purchasing practices.

Initially, all of these things were intended to move forward as a single package.  But due to title and single subject requirements in the Senate, the measures got broken up into multiple bills, which were then sent to a series of different committees.  As such, those of us advocating for the bills have been hard pressed to continually remind legislators that the single bill they’re reviewing is part of a larger package that we were asked to produce.

The status of the package is decidedly murky.

Senate Bill 5520, a measure to ease WSU’s municipal stormwater costs, did not advance from committee.  Senate Bill 5517, which would have allowed universities to pay only for state archiving services they actually used, has been put down.  So has Senate Bill 5518, which would have required direct deposit for state government employees.

Senate Bill 5516, which would allow universities to pay in advance for certain maintenance costs in order to get reduced rates, is alive and well.  So is House Bill 1663, which would remove a requirement that universities purchase 2 percent of materials, supplies, services and equipment from the Department of Corrections.

A series of other measures are likely to end up in House Bill 1795, which is Rep. Reuven Carlyle’s tuition flexibility bill.  These could include ones that provide relief on reporting requirements, purchasing restrictions and a relief from a series of limitations on things such as personal service contracts, equipment purchases, out-of-state travel and hiring.

Some measures may show up in budget language.  This would include measures to eliminate or change the floor and raise the ceiling for minor capital projects and make pre-design for capital projects under $10 million permissive but not mandatory.

And still others that don’t make the cut this year may be moved into a process for discussion this summer and fall leading into next year’s legislative session.

State Update for Tuesday March 22, 2011

It’s the 72nd day of this year’s 105-day legislative session and there’s much to report.

Last week the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council issued a new quarterly report that stretched the state’s multi-billion dollar budget gap even wider.  For the remainder of the current two-year budget cycle, which ends June 30, the report reduced expected revenues by $80 million.  For the new two-year budget cycle that begins July 1, the report reduced anticipated tax collections by $698 million.

It should be noted that it could have been even worse.  Prognosticators on the Capitol campus feared reductions that would have exceeded $1 billion.

That said, what we witnessed constitutes a significant reduction.

A final, third supplemental 2009/11 budget is expected but it seems unlikely to be released before the release of the 2011/13 biennial budget.

And on that front, leaders in the House of Representatives previously planned on releasing their budget proposal as soon as today.  But those plans appear to have been put on hold for at least a week or more following the release of the forecast.  So stay tuned.

In other news, Friday is the next cutoff for all bills to be moved out of their policy committees.  Senate bills are being heard in House committees and House bills are being heard in Senate committees.  Among the bills we’re working to make sure they clear this hurdle is Senate Bill 5636 concerning the University Center of North Puget Sound and Senate Bill 5519, which would give colleges and universities a bit more freedom when it comes to purchasing.

Federal Update for March 21, 2011

The current Continuing Resolution will keep the Federal Government running until April 8th.  There were several WSU congressionally directed projects included in either the House or Senate appropriations bills the following items have been removed during the Continuing Resolution process and will not be funded in the FY2011 appropriations.  In addition to reducing “earmarks” Congress is also looking at reducing or eliminating funding to authorized programs.  Potential programs they may reduce funding to are Hatch Act, Smith-Lever 3b-c and McIntire-Stennis accounts.

Agriculture formula funding – at present the formal funding has not been eliminated but there is an effort to roll back the funds to FY2008 numbers rather than maintain FY2010 funding levels.

NIFA Program FY 2008 FY 2010 Est. Impact
Hatch Act (Research) 3,674,822 3,872,378 -197,556
Smith-Lever 3b-c (Extension) 4,076,293 4,399,342 -323,049
McIntire-Stennis (Forestry) 342,311 398,129 -55,818
Subtotal $8,093,426 $8,669,849 -$576,423

Agriculture Appropriations – traditionally WSU receives approximately a combined $3.5 million for these projects which is spent on research staff and graduate students to address research topics not traditionally fundable through NIFA competitive grant programs.  In addition to items listed below WSU also receive funds from the Viticulture Consortium (West), through UC Davis and funds to the Composite Materials and Engineering Center through the University of Idaho.

Aegilops Cylindrica (Jointed Goatgrass/Biomass)

Aquaculture Research

Barley Gene Mapping

Cool Season Food Legumes

Food Security

Grass Seed Cropping Systems for Sustainable Agriculture

Impact

Organic Cropping

Potato Research

Small Fruit Research

STEEP IV

Virus-free Wine Grape Cultivars, Wine Grape Foundation Block

USDA Agriculture Research Service funding reductions/elimination in the agriculture appropriations bill:

2012 funding for ARS Laboratory at Pullman, WA

Energy and Water Appropriations

Algae Biofuels Research

As we learn more about specific budget and appropriations to or from federal programs we will post the information.  If you have questions or have heard information from program managers that you are working with please pass the information on to the Government Affairs team or directly to me, Kristi Growdon, Director of Federal Relations, growdonk@wsu.edu or call 206-349-2772.

Federal update for March 16th 2011

The 2nd Continuing Resolution H.J. Res 48

By a vote of 271 to 158, the House cleared H.J. Res. 48, the three-week continuing resolution (CR) that would keep the government funded through April 8. The current CR expires this Friday evening.

The Senate is expected to pass this CR also by the end of this week.

You can read the bill at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hjres48eh/pdf/BILLS-112hjres48eh.pdf

Direct impact of the CR on WSU will be listed next week.

Federal Funding of NPR;

H.R. 1076 was introduced today that will “prohibit federal funding of NPR and the use of federal funding to acquire radio content. WSU’s Murrow College operates Northwest Public Radio a 15-station network. WSU currently receives $486,390 from Community Service Grants.

Major Provisions to H.R. 1076:

Prohibits direct federal funding of National Public Radio.
NPR received over $5 million in direct funding in FY10 from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Department of Education, Department of Commerce, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Prohibits stations from using federal funds to pay NPR dues. Current Corporation for Public Broadcasting Guidelines allow public radio stations to use their federal grant funding for the payment of dues to NPR.
Prohibits public radio stations from using federal funds to purchase programming.
The bill permits public radio stations to use non-federal funds for the payment of NPR dues and the acquisition of programming.
Stations can continue to receive federal grants for the production of their own programming.

You can read the bill in its complete form at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr1076ih/pdf/BILLS-112hr1076ih.pdf

State update for Monday March 14, 2011

It’s the 64th legislative day and it kicks off a week that followers of the legislative process have been awaiting – if not eagerly. At noon on Thursday the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council is scheduled to release its latest quarterly forecast of state tax collections.

It’s this report that legislators will use to determine how big the next biennial budget can be. And leaders in the House of Representatives are hoping to release their budget proposal by as soon as next week.

But all signs are pointing to another dismal forecast. Actual tax collections during the past three months have fallen shy of expectations by $85 million, an ominous sign. It’s now expected Thursday’s forecast could increase the size of Washington’s already sizable budget shortfall by as much as $1 billion or more. That would require even deeper cuts than what already are being contemplated.

Otherwise, after last week’s floor cutoff legislators are back in committees this week hearing bills. Senate bills are now being heard in House committees and House bills are being heard in Senate committees. Policy bills have to be moved out by March 25 to stay alive.

On the docket this week of interest to WSU is today’s hearing on House Bill 1422, which would authorize the Department of Natural Resources to develop a demonstration project involving the use of forest biomass in the production of aviation fuel. WSU has been a leader in the bioproducts arena and will be testifying in support.

On Tuesday WSU will be testifying in support of House Bill 1586, which would allow doctorate programs at branch campuses. And on Wednesday, WSU will be testifying in support of Senate Bill 5636, which is the North Puget Sound University Center bill.

Federal update for March 11th, 2011

Appropriations Committee Introduces Three Week Continuing Resolution –
Bill will Prevent Government Shutdown, Cut $6 Billion in Spending

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers today introduced a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government at current rates for three weeks -until April 8 – while cutting $6 billion in spending. The legislation (H.J. Res 48) is the second short-term funding extension to prevent a government shutdown while Congressional negotiations continue on a long-term plan to keep the government running through the end of the fiscal year.

“A government shutdown is not an option, period. While short term funding measures are not the preferable way to fund the government, we must maintain critical programs and services for the American people until Congress comes to a final, long-term agreement. This legislation also includes $6 billion in spending cuts – a $2 billion cut for every week of funding – to continue our efforts to rein in spending and put a dent in our massive, $1.5 trillion deficit,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said.

The cuts in H.J. Res 48 include funding rescissions, reductions, and program terminations. The bill also eliminates earmark accounts within the Agriculture, Commerce/Justice/Science, Financial Services/General Government, and Interior subcommittee jurisdictions.

All of the spending cuts in this legislation were also included in H.R.1 – which was passed by the House – and many of these reductions and terminations were supported by President Obama in his annual budget requests. In addition, while not being approved by the Senate this week, H.R.1 garnered more Senate votes than the Senate Democrats’ competing proposal.

This short term CR is expected to be considered by the House next week. To view the text of the legislation, please visit: www.rules.house.gov