Friday, April 10, 2015

Another bill deadline approaches, budget talks continue

The Legislature is quickly approaching an April 15 cutoff date for House bills to pass out of the Senate, and for Senate bills to pass out of the House.

A system-request bill (HB 1706) to waive building and student activity fees for active duty military personnel has passed the House and is now in the Senate Rules committee awaiting a floor vote. Another system-request bill to streamline statutes (HB 1961) has passed both chambers and awaits the governor’s signature.

Meanwhile, budget writers continue to work on 2015-2017 operating and capital budget proposals.

Senate Ways and Means approves capital plan

April 9 — The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved its version of the capital budget, which is now in the Rules Committee to be scheduled for a floor vote (EHB 1115).
·         The proposal provides $269.5 million for community and technical college capital projects, which is 73 percent of the system’s overall request of $367 million.
·         Similar to the governor’s proposal, it follows the system priority list but funds only the first 16 of 24 projects on the list.
·         Similar to capital proposals by the governor and the House, the plan cuts funding for construction projects on the list by 5 to 13 percent.

Community and technical college system representatives shared concerns at an April 8 hearing.

Dr. Jean Hernandez, Edmonds Community College president, urged full funding of the system’s capital priorities list, including design funds for a new Science, Engineering and Technology Building at that college.

“This is a building that will allow us to both address the capacity and the need for the science areas, including allied health, engineering, natural sciences, materials science and construction programs at the college,” she said. “In addition, it will allow us to train teachers in the science and math fields through our partnership with Central Washington University.”

Stuart Trippel, Shoreline Community College executive director for business and student support services, discussed the need for design funding for a new Allied Health, Science and Manufacturing project. The project will replace five, one-story buildings that are about 50 years old with one, four-story building for STEM programs that serve educational needs between Seattle and Tacoma. With full funding, the system can “move forward with first-rate projects advanced by the State Board for the 2015-2017 biennium,” he said.

Bruce Riveland, Olympic College vice president for administrative services, shared concerns about additional reductions in construction funding for a College Instruction Center. The project replaces an aging art, music and theater building with a single new multipurpose facility for health occupations and other programs.

“By going through OFM’s budget evaluation study last year, we validated the program needs and the cost estimate and have already cut millions of dollars from the original project budget. Further trimming the funding…doesn’t account for the infrastructure necessary for this project.”

Steve Ward, Centralia College vice president for finance and administration, expressed appreciation for construction funds for a new Student Services building, but explained that the proposed funding is significantly less than the estimated costs of construction. “We’ve kept the costs consistent with our design phase request and the project is now ready to bid. Our students and community are already contributing $5 million to this project and the proposed substitute is a $1.5 million cut to the construction budget.”

Senate Ways & Means hears bill on dual credit opportunities

April 6 Marty Brown, SBCTC executive director, testified before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on dual credit opportunities provided by colleges and universities for high school students (E2HB 1546). The bill now prioritizes funding for students of low-income and those attending small and rural high schools. It also clarifies the definitions of “Running Start” and “College in the High School” dual-credit programs.

We strongly support dual credit programs as a key to higher education access,” Brown said. “We support the subsidies that are provided here, we support eliminating the use of Running Start funds for courses offered in the high school, and we support the small and rural school provisions.”

The bill was passed out of the Ways and Means Committee April 7 and is now in the Rules Committee awaiting further action.

Coming up later this week

The House and Senate will continue to vote on each other’s bills next week to meet the April 15 cutoff date for floor passage. Budget discussions will heat up as the Legislature counts down to the April 26 end of regular session.