This week the Washington State Senate released and passed a proposed biennial operating budget for the 2013-15 biennium.
In a press conference Senator Andy Hill, Chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee framed the budget using four numbers.
- Zero: The deficit in the budget for the supplemental session
- Four: The number of years the budget is balanced
- Twenty-One: The budget builds an education system for the 21st century
- One-Hundred and Five: The plan to finish this work within the regular session of the Legislature.
Overall the proposed budget makes some enhancements, primarily in education; balances the budget; leaves a reserve; makes some savings; and redirects funds from the capital budget and other revenue.
The Senate proposal makes three primary enhancements in the area of education:
- Provides funds for over $1 billion for K-12 education by continuing the phase-in of HB 2776 requirements and enhancing other basic education programs;
- Makes over $100 million in policy level enhancements in state funding for higher education;
- Expands preschool through the Department of Early Learning
These enhancements as well as the other parts of the budget are funded through a combination of savings, transfers, and the redirection of funds.
- $2 billion in spending controls and savings: (1) $321 million by re-purposing Initiative 732, (2) $303 million through federal Medicaid expansion, (3) $238 million by temporarily extending the hospital safety net; (4) $151 million in administrative efficiencies (including higher education); (5) $127 million in savings by aligning health benefit eligibility for state, higher education and K-12 employees with the federal Affordable Care Act; (6) $113 million in changes to the Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) program and support for the Aged, Blind and Disabled (ABD); and (7) $183 million in caseload and policy changes affect TANF and Working Connections Child Care.
- $179 million in transfers: The largest fund transfers include $42 million from the Life Science Discovery Fund, $20 million from the State Treasurer’s Service, and $15 million from the Public Works Assistance Account.
- $262 million in redirection of capital budget and other revenue funds
Finally the budget assumes $61 million in new revenues. This increase includes a combination of $11 million in legislation reducing revenue and $72 million in legislation/budget actions increasing revenue.
The Senate proposal makes an investment in higher education that moves in the right direction. The proposed budget assumes no increases in resident undergraduate tuition rates for the 2013-15 biennium. The budget provides $77.8 million in funding to support the core academic functions of the institutions of higher education and an additional $50 million in recognition of the institutions performance in support of statewide goals relating to student retention and degree completion. Finally the budget makes an investment in financial aid including the College Bound Scholarship program and the State Need Grant.
Additional dollars are provided to WSU to expand their medical programs in Spokane and to establish the Center on Ocean pH Balance within the UW.
The investments in the Senate proposal are funded in part ($59 million) with dollars that would be generated from a 20% surcharge on international students who attend the two- and four-year public institutions.
For Evergreen the Senate’s proposed budget would require that tuition remain at zero for the 2013-15 biennium for undergraduate resident students. The College may increase tuition beyond this level but would be required to invest in institutional financial aid.
In addition the budget provides $1.515 million above maintenance level funding to support the core academic functions of the institutions of higher education and $953,000 in recognition of the College’s performance in support of statewide goals relating to student retention and degree completion. Evergreen, along with the other public baccalaureate institutions, is reduced by $356,000 to meet additional administrative efficiencies.
Finally, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, a public service center of Evergreen, is funded to support six study/research projects for the Legislature.
On Friday the Washington Senate passed the proposed biennial operating budget with a vote of 30-18. The vote was a mix of Democrats and Republicans. The proposal now goes to the House for consideration.
The House is expected to release their operating budget sometime this week.
Both chambers have yet to release a 2013-15 biennial capital budget.