The first special session of 2012 ended last night as of midnight. Though close the Washington Legislature did not complete business by this deadline and Governor Gregoire called the Legislature back for a second special session. After nearly eight straight hours of work from midnight to early this morning, the Legislature passed a balanced budget, jobs act, and a handful of policy reform bills.
The 2012 supplemental operating budget passed 64-34 in the House and 44-2 in the Senate and was delivered to the Governor for her consideration early this morning. The operating budget makes no reductions to K-12 and higher education. Some of the highlights of the budget include $238 million to the general fund as a result of the state temporarily claiming control of local sales taxes before they are redistributed back to jurisdictions at their usual time, an increase in taxes raising about $14.5 million by eliminating a tax deduction for some large banks, additional revenue to the state through changing rules on roll-your-own cigarettes, and at the end a reserve fund of $320 million.
Impact to Higher Education
The operating budget as passed by the Legislature does not reduce general fund support for higher education, this includes further eductions to institutions and financial aid. The budget however does include some provisos and policy changes.
- Bellevue College is authorized to offer baccalaureate degrees. Prior to the passage of this bill the College could only offer applied baccalaureate degrees.
- The two and four year institutions are required to conduct a comprehensive review of institutional tuition waiver policies.
- Evergreen is required to reallocate $276,000 for FY2013 for an expansion in enrollments in STEM as defined in HB 1795. This definition includes bachelor and advanced degree programs in the sciences, which includes agriculture and natural resources, biology and biomedical sciences, computer and information sciences, engineering and engineering technologies, health professions and clinical sciences, mathematics and statistics, and physical sciences and science technologies, including participation and degree completion rates for students from traditionally underrepresented populations.
- The Washington State Institute for Public Policy is required to conduct a longitudinal study of the state need grant program ($100,000).
- The two and four year institutions are not permitted to use state appropriated funds to support intercollegiate athletic programs
- Changes state payments for public employee health benefits from $850 to $800 per month
Capital Budget and Jobs Act
The 2012 capital budget made no changes to Evergreen’s biennial capital budget. The Jobs Acts which includes a new bonds bill and the traditional capital budget are estimated to have an economic impact of $1.1 billion in construction work over the next 14 months.
As critical to the process as balancing the budget were efforts to pass reform bills to provide for greater long-term sustainability in the state budget. Among the policy bills passed by the Legislature three were critical to finally ending the 2012 supplemental session.
SB 6378 addresses early retirement benefits for future state employees.. Under law changes in 2000 and 2007, an employee with 30 years’ service could retire at age 62 with no reduction in benefits, and at age 55 with only a 20 percent reduction. Under the new law, retirement at age 62 will lower the benefit by 15 percent and age 55 by 50 percent. The savings will go to the state’s general fund.
SB 5940 attempts to equalize health-insurance benefits for full-time and part-time school district employees and their families. The bill requires school districts to meet certain requirements, including making all employees pay a share of premiums, offering a high-deductible health plan and tying the price of individual and family benefits.
SB 6636 requires the state’s two-year budget to be in line with anticipated revenue over a four-year period or 4.5% growth per year, whichever is greater. Growth has met or exceeded 4.5 percent in half of the past 16 years.