House budget proposals released
House budget writers on Monday released their versions of the operating and capital budgets. The House Appropriations Committee heard testimony on the operating budget proposal on Monday, and the House Capital Budget Committee took up that budget on Tuesday.
Wednesday marked the second policy committee cutoff deadline, when bills in those committees needed to be voted out to continue in the legislative process for the 2023 session. House and Senate budget committees worked Thursday hearing and voting on bills with a fiscal impact. They'll also meet today and the House Appropriations Committee will meet tomorrow.
For the community and technical college system, the Senate Ways and Means Committee is scheduled today to hear the Running Start expansion bill, and the House Appropriations Committee has the data transfer bill on its agenda for this afternoon. Look for coverage of those bills in next week's Legislative News.
House releases proposed operating budget
March 27 — The House released its version of the operating budget Monday morning, taking testimony on the proposal during the Appropriations Committee hearing that afternoon. Like the original version of the Senate budget, the House budget plan would fund only 83% of COLA increases, leaving colleges to fund the remaining 17%. Unlike the Senate's budget, the House budget provides critical funding for college workforce programs, including $30 million in one-time funding for program support and $36 million in ongoing funding "to enhance workforce support and higher educational opportunities."
Specific to the college system, the House budget also includes funding for:
- Diversity, equity and inclusion efforts ($12 million).
- Refugee education ($3.2 million).
- 200 additional nursing enrollments (100 for each year of the biennium).
- One benefits navigator to support students experiencing homelessness at each college.
Kevin Brockbank, president of Spokane Community College and incoming chancellor of the Community Colleges of Spokane, expressed concern about proposed COLAs receiving just 83% of funding from the state budget.
“This funding level would equate to a $39 million budget cut and cause significant harm to community and technical colleges, our students and our local workforce efforts,” he said. “In order to pay for the compensation gap, colleges will be forced to cut programs and services for students and lay off employees. At the proposed funding level, we would provide mandatory cost of living increases for some staff by laying off others.”
Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney, chair of the State Board, thanked committee members, saying she hoped budget negotiators would keep the House’s proposed investment in workforce programs.
“Our 34 community and technical colleges are really key to a skilled and trained workforce, yet colleges are struggling to keep their workforce programs afloat because of the higher costs of equipment, consumable supplies and many other costs that they have,” she said. “We want to thank you for your investment of $66 million in workforce programs that will benefit students, employers and communities in every area of our state while driving economic prosperity.”
Paul Francis, executive director for the State Board, built on Gutiérrez Kenney’s testimony, thanking the committee for funding supporting the college system.
“In addition to funding for workforce programs, thank you for many other significant funding investments this budget,” he said, calling out:
- Refugee education and training, including recent arrivals from Ukraine and Afghanistan.
- Basic needs navigators for the 50% of [community and technical college] students experiencing food insecurity, housing insecurity or homelessness.
- Expanding student access to the Washington College Grant.
- Funding for implementation of the Clean Buildings Act.
- Continuing college system work related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
- Growing nursing enrollment by 200 in the next biennium.
Francis also expressed hope to work with budget writers on fully funding faculty and staff compensation increases.
House Capital Budget Committee takes up budget proposal
March 28 — The House Capital Budget Committee on Tuesday heard testimony on its version of the capital budget, which was released Monday. For the community and technical college system, the budget includes full funding for the system’s prioritized list through Wenatchee Valley College’s Center for Technical Education and Innovation, number 13 on the list, and additional funding for minor works projects. Like the Senate’s version, the House budget does not include funding for Olympic College’s Innovation and Technology Learning Center, number 10 on the list, after the college requested to pause the project. The center will be the first major project in the next SBCTC biennial request.
“We appreciate that [the House proposal] recognizes the priorities from our request by strongly supporting repair work to preserve and maintain existing facilities, replace aging infrastructure and funding that will enable each college the ability to make needed programmatic changes to enhance the teaching and learning environment,” Darrell Jennings, capital budget director for the State Board, said.
Chris Bailey, president of Lower Columbia College, thanked committee members for the capital budget, and asked that they consider funding additional projects, including Shoreline Community College’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math Education Center, number 14 on the college system’s priority request, and Lower Columbia College’s Center for Vocational and Transitional Studies, number 15 on the list. Both projects were included in the Senate’s budget.
“Lower Columbia College’s proposed building is a key piece to its strategic plan, housing, welding, machining, manufacturing and IT programs, and high school and college prep programs,” he said. “These programs create pathways for great careers, not just jobs. The graduates and their families will benefit, but also our region’s small businesses, large industries and trade unions. These projects will bring additional construction money to our local communities.”
Coming up next week
Work in the House and Senate budget committees will continue until Tuesday when they reach their cutoff deadline. Representatives and senators will spend the remainder of the week on the floor to debate and vote on bills ahead of April 12 floor cutoff deadline.