All about the budget this week as Legislature passes another cutoff
This week marked a major milestone in the 2019 legislative session. Both chambers have now passed their operating budgets — the House on March 29 and the Senate on April 4. The two chambers will soon begin the conference committee process to hammer out the differences between the two budgets.
Wednesday was the deadline for bills from the opposite chamber to be voted out of policy committees in order to continue in the legislative process.
Senate operating budget highlights
April 4 — On Thursday, the Senate approved its version of the state 2019-21 operating budget. For community and technical colleges, the proposal includes:
- $80 million to the State Need Grant to build to full funding by 2021-23
- $20.9 million to help offset compensation costs that are above expected tuition revenues (up $9 million from when the Senate budget was first introduced)
- $548,000 to implement 2SSB 5800, a bill that would create pilot programs at four community or technical colleges and two 4-year universities to provide assistance to homeless students and students who were in foster care
- $300,000 to establish a Center of Excellence focused on advanced manufacturing in southwest Washington
- $300,000 for the Puget Sound Welcome Back Center at Highline College to create a grant program for internationally trained individuals looking for employment in the behavioral health field in the state
- $200,000 for the Washington Family and Community and Engagement Trust at Everett Community College to continue and expand a civic education and leadership program for underserved adults and children
- $500,000 for the Simulating Goods Manufacturing to purchase equipment for a regional training facility at AGC Biologics in Bothell to offer simulated good manufacturing practice experience
The Senate operating budget would also impose a $52 million across-the-board cut to all state agencies during the 2019-21 biennium. The community and technical college system's share is estimated at $2.8 million.
Testimony on original version of the Senate operating budget
April 1 — On Monday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee heard testimony on its original version of the operating budget.
Jan Yoshiwara, executive director for the State Board, thanked senators for increasing funding for the State Need Grant. That money, she said, would mean 11,000 more community and technical college students could attend college. She also thanked senators for the $11.9 million to help offset compensation costs, but stressed that the funding doesn’t go far enough to cover budget gaps colleges face. (Note: The final version of the Senate budget, as it passed the Senate floor, included an additional $9 million for the 2019-21 biennium.)
“As you move into negotiations with the House, we respectfully ask that you consider to fairly compensate our faculty and to increase degree and certificate completion efforts through Guided Pathways that will impact thousands of our students," she said.
The Guided Pathways initiative did not receive funding in the Senate’s budget.
Luke Robins, president of Peninsula College, and Kevin McCarthy, president of Renton Technical College, told senators their colleges are facing position reductions and program cuts because of the compensation costs the colleges have to cover.
Peninsula faces an $800,000 deficit for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Renton is looking at a $1.65 million deficit.
“In order to address the shortfall, Peninsula has frozen or eliminated approximately 15 positions across the college,” Robins said. “These reductions unfortunately will result in decreased services often to the most at-risk students in our population. These students reside in a rural area that continues to lag behind the rest of the state in terms of our economic recovery.”
Calling the potential cuts devastating and demoralizing, McCarthy testified that Renton has already eliminated 21 positions, including eight faculty members, and reduced seven instructional programs.
“These cuts affect the lives of our employees, the potential and services we offer our students, and the ability to educate our future workforce for business and industry partners,” he said, asking the Senate to fully fund compensation increases.
Testifying on the college system’s Guided Pathways request, which was not funded, Olympic College President Marty Cavalluzzi said that the approach would help all students, especially those from under-represented populations and first-generation, through their time in college.
“In order for our students to become fully engaged and contributing members of the community, they need to graduate. The game changer in closing access, equity and achievement gaps, and increasing graduation rates is Guided Pathways,” he said. “The data show that those colleges that fully embrace Guided Pathways and the changes in culture and processes that accompany that are seeing achievement gaps close and graduation rates increase, which has a huge and positive impact on the community and the economy.”
Steve Leahy, director of government relations for the Seattle College District, told senators of the need for higher faculty pay.
“We haven't fixed a whole lot with this budget,” he said. “At the very time that we're saying most students to be employable our economy need some post-secondary education, we have a huge weak link in the institutions that are there to provide that, and that's our [community and technical colleges]. Please help.”
Trustees confirmed by Senate
- Vickie Norris, Everett Community College, confirmed April 3
- Martha Flores, Wenatchee Valley College, confirmed April 4
- Clara Pellham, Shoreline Community College, confirmed April 4
Coming up next week
The House and Senate fiscal committees will be hearing and voting on bills over the weekend and early next week ahead of Tuesday's opposite chamber fiscal committee cutoff deadline. Bills with fiscal impacts will need to be voted out of those committees by Tuesday in order to continue in the legislative process, unless those bills are necessary to implement the budget. Beginning Wednesday, the Legislature will spend the remainder of session on the floor, debating and voting on bills before Sine Die — the last day of regular session — April 28.