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WSU Government Relations Newsbeat

State update for Wednesday April 13, 2011

A bipartisan group of leaders in the Senate on Tuesday evening unveiled the upper chamber’s operating and capital budget proposals, and work continued into the night to assess their impacts.

The cut to WSU’s state appropriation would be $112 million, compared to the $110 million in the House budget.  Unlike the House budget, it does not hold any of the university’s remaining appropriation in reserve as a performance incentive.

The Senate plan also would authorize resident undergraduate tuition increases of up to 16 percent compared to 13 percent in the House plan.  Largely because of that, the net cut to the university would be $44 million over the course of the 2011-13 budget cycle compared to $53 million in the House.

A hearing is scheduled for 2:30 today in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

The Senate’s capital budget for WSU was highlighted by the $60.2 million it would provide for the proposed Biomedical and Health Sciences Building in Spokane.  Some $70.8 million was requested for construction.  The House plan would provide $35 million.  The Senate plan also included $8.2 million to support a partial renovation of Fulmer Hall on the Pullman campus.

Federal update for Tuesday April 12, 2011

Over the next several days, we will see an overwhelming amout of information and language regarding the Continuing Resolution that was decided on late last night.  We will post updates as we receive them, and due to the large amount of material, please click on the links below to follow the most up to date news.
Tuesday April 12 Part One
Tuesday April 12 Part Two
Tuesday April 12 Part Three

State update for Monday April 11, 2011

On Saturday the House of Representatives approved its budget proposal and the North Puget Sound University Center legislation, sending both to the Senate.

Senate Bill 5636 was approved 66-31.  It would have WSU assume management of the university center in Everett in 2014 following the completion of an academic plan for the region and the establishment of an engineering program at the facility.  Were the Senate to approve the bill with changes made in the House it would go straight to the Governor’s Office to be signed into law.

The budget bill was approved 53-43 after a series of amendments were approved Friday.  None of them had any great significance for WSU.  You can learn more about the proposal here and about its effects on WSU here.

Leaders in the Senate are expected to roll out their budget proposal this week, possibly tomorrow.  But members also are preoccupied with Tuesday’s 5 p.m. cutoff.  All bills not necessary to implement the budget must be voted out of the opposite chamber – House bills must have been voted out of the Senate and vice versa.  That would leave 12 days for legislators to reconcile differences between versions of bills approved in both chambers before the scheduled adjournment on April 24.

Federal update for Friday April 8, 2011

Although WSU has been prepared for a few months, communication of cuts to congressional directed, or ‘earmarked’, research dollars has been made official.  The Office of Grant and Research Development was issued official notice from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture that all funding to the following programs has been eliminated for the remainder of FY2011:

Virus-free Wine Grape Cultivars, WA- Special Research Grant

STEEP IV-Water Quality in Northwest- Special Research Grant

Organic Cropping, WA- Special Research Grant

Perrenial Wheat, WA- Special Research Grant

Grass Seed Crop Systems for Sustainable Ag., ID, OR, WA- Special Research Grant

Food Security, WA- Special Research Grant

Competitiveness of Agriculture Products, WA- Special Research Grant

Asparagus Production Technologies, WA- Special Research Grant

Aquaculture, ID and WA- Special Research Grant

Aegilops Cylindrica (Jointed Goatgrass), WA- Special Research Grant

Diabetes Detection, Prevention, WA, PA- Federal Administration-Extension Grant

PM-10 Study, WA – Federal Administration-Research Grant

We do not yet know the full impact of these cuts, but will make every effort to keep you updated on federal funding issues as they evolve.

Federal update for Thursday April 7, 2011

Yesterday afternoon, House Republicans announced they are marking up a Republican bill to keep the government open another week, exacting $12 billion in spending cuts and funding the Defense Department until the end of September. The bill is expected to be on the House floor for a vote Thursday.  The administration and Democrats on Capitol Hill had initially pegged cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year at $33 billion, but Boehner and House Republicans appear to be pushing for deeper cuts.

Last night, the President held a meeting with Boehner and Reid at the White House to discuss budget negotiations.  A deal wasn’t struck, however a joint press appearance after the White House meeting between Reid and Boehner spoke volumes to the efforts both leaders are now making to reach an agreement.  During Boehner’s statement, he said there was no agreement on either the amount of spending or the inclusion of policy riders (federal support for Planned Parenthood or defunding of the EPA).  Speaking to the divide within the Republican Conference, conservatives have begun to come on board with the Republican’s short term proposal, citing the importance of continuing to fund the military.

Boehner and Reid will meet again this morning in an attempt to come to terms on a budget deal.  The President has also said he will summon the two leaders again to the White House this evening if necessary.

UPDATE:

President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid didn’t reach a deal on the budget after a Thursday afternoon meeting. Outside the White House, Reid told reporters that they would reconvene at 7 p.m.

Boehner chose to proceed with House passage of a stop-gap “troop funding” bill which the president has already promised to veto.  Adopted 247-181, the measure would put the Defense Department on permanent footing through the end of this fiscal year but demand $12 billion more in immediate cuts to keep the rest of the government open through next week.

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.