2019 session kicks off with budget hearings
The Washington state Legislature kicked off its 2019 session Monday with House and Senate budget committees holding hearings on Governor Jay Inslee's proposed operating and capital budgets. Representatives from community and technical colleges were on the hill testifying on the proposals and advocating on behalf of the nearly 370,000 students the colleges serve.
Also this week, Inslee gave his seventh State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature, outlining his priorities for the legislative session.
Senators take up governor-proposed capital budget plan
Jan. 17 — Representatives from the community and technical college system headed to the Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing Thursday as senators heard testimony on Governor Jay Inslee’s capital budget proposal. The group — Nancy Szofran, acting president of Spokane Falls Community College, Bonnie Brunt, dean of visual and performing arts at Spokane Falls, Pat Sisneros, vice president of college services at Everett Community College, Eric Murray, president of Cascadia College, and Steve Leahy, director of government relations for the Seattle College District — had just wrapped up testifying at the House Capital Budget Committee.
Each was appreciative of the funding that was in the budget proposal, but expressed concerns that the budget did not go far enough to fund the college system’s capital needs.
Szofran spoke first, urging senators to fund construction of Spokane Falls' Fine and Applied Arts building replacement project.
“I appreciate that this budget proposal would make several investments that follow our system’s priorities. Unfortunately, the overall funding level is too low and does not include construction for Spokane Falls Photography and Fine Arts project,” Szofran said. “Our students and community have been waiting for more than 10 years for this project.”
Brunt echoed Szofran’s sentiment.
“I also appreciate that the proposal makes several investments and am lamenting the fact that having just finished pre-design and been authorized for design, we’re looking at the possibility of construction, which we’re eagerly awaiting,” she said. “Funding the entire system request, including the construction phase for this building would mean a great deal to us.”
Similar to his testimony in the House Capital Budget Committee, Murray urged senators to fund Cascadia College’s project so it could be built in conjunction with a University of Washington Bothell project.
“To do that, we would have to have you go down further on the list. I would request politely that you fund everything prior to Cascadia on the list so that we can get down to that and create this building and save taxpayer dollars and help students transfer,” he said.
Sisneros contended that projects at Everett Community College do more than just benefit the college itself, but help the surrounding community as a whole.
“The projects do more than just replace old buildings on our campus,” he said. “They will contribute to the economic redevelopment of the north part of Everett. We’ve seen private businesses move into this area, for example Starbucks and Red Lion, due in large part to our efforts of redevelopment along North Broadway.”
Leahy wrapped up testimony from the community and technical college system. He asked committee members to consider funding for North Seattle College’s Library Building Renovation, South Seattle College’s Rainier Hall Renovation project and Seattle Central’s Broadway Achievement Center.
Governor capital budget proposal subject of House Capital Budget hearing
Jan. 17 — The House Capital Budget Committee heard testimony on Governor Jay Inslee’s proposed capital budget at its hearing Thursday. The hearing included a work session on the governor’s thinking behind the budget with testimony from Office of Financial Management’s Jim Crawford, assistant director of the budget division, and Jen Masterson, senior budget assistant for capital budget. Masterson detailed the higher education portion of the budget, saying that they were not able to fund the community and technical college system’s request as far as they would have liked due to capital budget pressure. The governor’s budget funds the community and technical college project pipeline through project 17. Twenty-six projects remain unfunded.
Nancy Szofran, acting president of Spokane Falls Community College, Bonnie Brunt, dean of visual and performing arts at Spokane Falls, Pat Sisneros, vice president of college services at Everett Community College, Eric Murray, president of Cascadia College, and Steve Leahy, director of government relations for the Seattle College District, were on hand to testify to the committee. The representatives testified next at the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Construction funding for Spokane Falls’ Fine and Applied Arts replacement project is in the 19 position on the pipeline list, two projects after the proposed governor’s budget funding ends.
“The project will replace two buildings and provide new space to improve program delivery as well as to help resolve seismic, life-safety, accessibility and energy efficiency issues in the current facilities,” Szofran said.
Brunt elaborated on Szofran’s comments, telling representatives that the building supports the college’s new digital media production degree and its Associate of Fine Arts degree.
“Many of our graduates go directly into the workforce while others earn advanced degrees,” she said.
The college, Brunt continued, had received a $100,000 private donation to include an art gallery in the new building.
“This is the support that we have from the community,” she said.
Everett Community College is affected three ways by the capital project request: design funding for the Baker Hall project is 18 on the pipeline list and construction of the Learning Resource Center is 24. The college is also requesting financing authority for property acquisition.
“By all accounts, our current library space is about half of what we need for our students and community, and this project has been our community college pipeline for 10 years,” Sisneros said of the Learning Resource Center project. “The new Learning Resource Center will integrate library, media services, eLearning, tutoring center, writing center and collaborative spaces into one building, creating a one-stop center for instructional support.”
Murray thanked committee members for their support in past capital budgets, but expressed concern with the level of funding in the governor’s proposed budget. The college budget request includes construction funding for Cascadia’s Center for Science and Technology and design funding for its CC5 Gateway Building project.
“I would like to suggest that we fall short of meeting the state’s needs for providing access to affordable higher education,” he said.
Murray asked committee members to fund Cascadia’s Science and Technology project so they could combine efforts with the University of Washington Bothell, which Cascadia is co-located with, to build one STEM building for the two institutions.
Testifying last from the college system was Leahy, who urged committee members to include construction funding for North Seattle College’s Library Building Renovation — 29 on the request list — design funding for South Seattle College’s Rainier Hall Renovation project—42 on the list — design funding for Seattle Central College’s Broadway Achievement Center — 43 on the list — along with construction funding for South Seattle College’s Automotive Technology project — which was funded at 13 on the list.
House Appropriations takes up governor's proposed operating budget
Jan. 16 — The House Appropriations Committee heard testimony on the House version of Governor Jay Inslee's proposed operating budget at its hearing Wednesday. The hearing was a continuation from Monday, as the committee’s allotted time ended before everyone signed up to testify was able to do so.
John Boesenberg, deputy executive director of Business Operations, expressed support for the governor’s budget proposal on behalf of the community and technical college system.
“His budget recognizes the central role our colleges play in providing students with pathways to high-wage jobs and ensuring businesses can thrive in Washington,” he said.
Boesenberg reiterated the system’s session priorities, and asked for the committee’s support as it considers legislative operating budget proposals. Those priorities are: competitive compensation for faculty and staff, funding for Guided Pathways, and support to train more skilled workers in high-demand areas.
“We ask the committee to consider our request for competitive compensation so that our faculty and staff can begin to catch up with their peers in other sectors and in other states,” he said. “With investments in our local community and technical colleges, more Washingtonians will have access to affordable, high-quality education that puts them on the path to high-skilled jobs and a better future.”
Committee members also heard from higher education representatives from Central Washington University, The Evergreen State College, the University of Washington, Western Washington University, Eastern Washington University and Washington State University.
Senate Ways & Means hears testimony on governor's operating budget
Jan. 15 — The Senate Ways and Means Committee heard public testimony on the Senate version of Governor Jay Inslee’s proposed operating budget at its hearing Tuesday. Taking testimony by subject area, higher education came second on the agenda after K-12 public schools. The Washington Student Achievement Council’s J. Lee Schultz testified first and in support of the governor’s budget. She told committee members WSAC supports the budget’s investments in the Washington College Promise program, Career Connect Washington, making the teacher shortage conditional grant program, and FAFSA completion and digital tools to reach students who signed up for the College Bound Scholarship.
“This clear unambiguous message to students about the promise of support will drive changes in college-going and improve overall educational attainment,” Schultz said of the Washington College Promise Scholarship program.
Cherie Berthon, operating budget director for the State Board, testified on behalf of the community and technical college system in support of the governor’s budget.
“Governor Inslee’s budget recognizes the central role that our colleges play in providing students with pathways to high wage jobs and also excellent employees so that our businesses in Washington can thrive,” she said.
Berthon expressed support for the budget’s foundational support, in which the state provides a larger share of the costs of compensation increases. The 2017-19 budget included a 6 percent cost of living allowance (COLA) increase for employees, divided over the course of the two-year budget cycle.
Berthon concluded by voicing appreciation for the budget’s funding of Guided Pathways, Career Connect Washington and the Washington College Promise Scholarship program.
“The governor’s budget provides a great deal of support for our top three budget priorities: competitive compensation, pathways to jobs and high demand programs,” she said.
Inslee outlines session priorities in State of the State address
Jan. 15 — Governor Jay Inslee delivered Tuesday his State of the State address to a joint session of the Washington state Legislature, laying out his top priorities for the 2019 legislative session. The speech, titled “Washington’s Unwritten Chapter,” focused on the theme of overcoming challenges. Specifically, Inslee outlined four major priority areas: climate change, mental health, Southern Resident orcas and education. These areas formed the basis of the governor’s budget, released last month, and his focus during the session.
On education, Inslee drew attention to infant and early childhood support and the Career Connect Washington initiative. His proposed budget provides apprenticeship and paid internship opportunities for 100,000 students over the next 10 years.
“We want to open up as many pathways as possible, including apprenticeships, certificates and degrees,” Inslee said. “For high school students or individuals who seek an experience outside a four-year program, our Career Connect Washington initiative gives them that option.”
Inslee also proposed changing the name of the State Need Grant to the Washington College Promise Scholarship. His budget allocates an additional $103 million in the 2019-21 budget cycle and guarantees by 2021-22 funding to students whose families make 70 percent or less of the state’s median family income. That would be about 93,000 students.
“We did this because a student’s financial challenges should not stand in the way of the pursuit of their dreams,” Inslee said.
Inslee also touched on affordable housing, misdemeanor marijuana convictions, affirmative action, workplace harassment, broadband internet, health care, gun control, the death penalty and mental health professionals in schools.
Coming up next week
A community and technical college system request bill — which would allow community and technical colleges to issue a high school diploma or certificate at the time a student receives an associate degree if the student, age 16 and older, does not already have a high school diploma — is up for a hearing at Thursday's Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee hearing. College representatives are also preparing to testify in support of bills on the Washington College Promise scholarship and expanding career connected learning opportunities at Tuesday's Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee hearing.