Friday, April 12, 2013

Budget talks heat up, CTC bills delivered to Governor

The House and Senate released operating and capital budget proposals this week while the April 9 fiscal committee cut-off further winnowed bills left alive this session.

Capital budget proposals released

All three capital proposals — Governor, Senate, and House — fund every project the CTC system requested in priority order, down to — but not including — construction of the Olympic College Instruction Center.

Senate capital budget proposal

The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved its version of the capital budget on Thursday. PSSB 5035 funds minor program and major construction projects at about 15 percent below the levels requested by SBCTC. (The Governor’s proposal reduced major construction project funding by about five percent.)

All of the system’s alternatively financed projects were approved as requested.

The Building Fee appropriations in the Senate proposal exceeds by about $20 million what the system expects to collect under the Senate operating budget proposal. This effectively commits future revenue to the projects in 2013-15.

In a public hearing earlier in the week, Nancy McKinney, South Puget Sound Community College vice president of administrative services, explained why decreased funding will harm important projects students need.  

“As many of you know, (community and technical colleges have) developed an inclusive and rigorous selection process to prioritize our capital needs. [Our approach] allows us to adapt buildings to meet the changing needs in our communities and address skill gaps as they arise,” McKinney said. “We appreciate you following the priorities we provided, but we are very concerned about funding projects below their estimated costs. The capital budget for this biennium also reduced funding for major construction projects 15 percent below our requested level and I happen to have one of those projects — the Learning Resource Center — on my campus… the reduced funding has really made this project challenging to manage.”

Link to testimony (begins at 1:18:30).

House capital budget proposal

This morning (Friday), the House Capital Budget Committee adopted its version of the capital budget, PSHB 1089. It may be acted upon early next week.

Highlight of bill provisions:

·       The House proposal funds the system’s major construction projects eight to 15 percent below their estimated costs.

·       The major design projects are reduced by six to 43 percent.

·       The House authorized all of the system’s alternatively financed projects as requested.

·       The Building Fee appropriations are $4 million less than the revenue expected from the House proposed tuition increases.

In a public hearing earlier in the week, David Mitchell, Olympic College president, thanked the committee for following the system’s prioritized list, but voiced concern that the proposal reduces funding for contingencies and neglects to account for inflation in the design phase.

“It has been our experience that we need 10 percent contingency for new construction and 15 percent for renovation projects. [This proposal] provides only half of that. We also are concerned that there is no inflation accounted for in the design,” Mitchell said. “And there is still an opportunity to fund a construction project at Olympic College that will house a wide range of programs including training for health occupations.”

Operating Budget Proposal

At the time this blog was posted, the House just passed its version of the operating budget. The House Appropriations Committee earlier added $10 million in new funding for the Student Achievement Initiative and adopted four other technical amendments the CTC system requested.

The House proposed budget does not provide the level of additional investments contained in the Senate or Governor proposals. It offers modest reductions to funding for other state agencies, eliminates multiple tax exemptions, and extends temporary taxes established in the current biennium.

In addition, the spending plan:

·       Restores funding related to the three percent salary reduction and one-time budget reductions taken in 2011-13.

·       Makes an investment in the Student Achievement Initiative of $10 million for the biennium from existing funds (in addition to the $10 million in new money, described above).

·       Provides authority for annual tuition increases of three percent.

·       Invests $1.9 million per year to increase enrollments in aerospace and STEM programs.

·       Includes $255,000 per year to support and operate a center at South Seattle Community College to provide training to students in maritime industries.

·       Includes $362,000 for the ‘internet technology integration project’ at the Opportunity Center for Employment and Education at North Seattle Community College.

·       Provides $200,000 per year to support the Labor Education Center at South Seattle.

·       Provides a one-time investment of $75,000 to implement provisions of 2nd Substitute House Bill 1680 - Educational Opportunity Gap.

·       Approves several collective bargaining agreements.

·       Maintains current Running Start program assumptions.

·       Does not fund I-732 increases to salary.

In public testimony earlier in the week, Ed Brewster, Grays Harbor College president, thanked the House for investing in higher education and requested that the final budget reflect priorities outlined in the Senate budget proposal.

“Thank you for the support that you have provided to community and technical colleges. We encourage you to meet the funding levels provided in the Senate budget. The Senate proposal … [includes] an additional $26 million in new funding for our performance-based Student Achievement Initiative. We ask that the final budget reflect these priorities so that our system continues to move students into good jobs and even higher levels of education,” Brewster said.

Judy Hartman, South Puget Sound Community College trustee, thanked the committee for additional investments in high-demand areas of study and for minimizing tuition increases for students.

“Thank you for the proposed new funding to added enrollments in aerospace and STEM. We saw in the recent Roundtable report that Washington could add (more than) 100,000 new jobs in the next four years by closing STEM skills gaps. Community and technical colleges play an important role in this. We offer many high-demand STEM programs. … We appreciate that you have provided new state funding and minimized tuition increases,” Hartman said.

Link to testimony (begins at 58:07).

Bills still standing after fiscal cut-off

Bills that survived last week’s policy bill cut-off had until Tuesday, April 9, to pass out of fiscal committees. Bills now have until Wednesday, April 17, to be voted off the floor. Budget bills and bills considered "necessary to implement the budget" (labeled NTIB) are exempt from cut-off deadlines.

The status of bills of interest to community and technical colleges are listed below. More details can be found on the Legislature’s website.

Bills headed to the Governor

Early registration for military

HB 1109 (Appleton) requires college to have a process by the 2013-14 academic year to offer early registration for eligible students who are veterans or National Guard members.

High school equivalency exams

SHB 1686 (Seaquist) replaces “general equivalency diploma” with “high school equivalency” to provide flexibility in test options.

Aligning high-demand secondary STEM or career and technical education programs with applied BA programs

2SSB 5624 (McAuliffe) creates a high school-to-community and technical college STEM pathway by requiring the further development of STEM-specific applied baccalaureate programs, subject to available funding.

Multiple measures of assessment for placement

SB 5712 (Kohl-Welles) encourages colleges to use multiple measures to determine whether a student must enroll in a pre-college course and to post all available options for course placement on their web sites and admissions materials.

Sip and Spit

SSB 5774 (Hewitt) creates a special permit to allow tasting of alcohol by individuals who are at least 18 years old enrolled in a culinary, wine technology, beer technology, or spirituous technology-related degree program.

Bills of interest that survived cut-off and await further action

Job Skills Program

ESHB 1247 (Hansen) modifies the Job Skills Program (JSP) by exempting small businesses from providing a dollar-for-dollar match for training.

Expand access to computer science education

SHB 1472 (Hansen) creates a grant program to support computer science professionals serving as co-instructors for high school computer science courses, directs the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board to convene a Computer Science Professional Shortage Taskforce.

Operating efficiencies (non-capital)

HB 1736 (Zeiger) requires OFM to work with multiple agencies to review certain reporting requirements, electronic signatures, reciprocity agreements for interstate online education.

Improving access for students with disabilities

SB 5180 (Shin) establishes a taskforce to improve higher education access for students with disabilities.

State Need Grant for WGU students

SSB 5195 (Rolfes) allows nonprofit institutions to be eligible to participate in the State Need Grant program.

Equitable funding for higher education

SSB 5338 (Baumgartner) establishes baseline state funding to the institutions of higher education and decreases tuition by 3 percent.

Tuition surcharge

SB 5893 (Hill) imposes a 20 percent surcharge on international students. *NTIB

State employee eligibility for insurance benefits

SB 5905 (Hill) eliminates state-paid health care coverage for part-time employees. *NTIB