January 28, 2013
We’re now in week three of the 105-day, 2013 regular legislative session. The major focus this session will be on passage of the 2013-2015 biennial budget. Estimates right now show a budget gap of about $2 billion dollars, and lawmakers are hard at work considering where and how to best allocate state resources, where to find more efficiencies in government, where and if the state needs to raise more revenue, and how to come up with the estimated $1 billion necessary to meet the constitutional obligation to provide adequate funding for K-12 education. It is unlikely the House or Senate will release a budget proposal prior to the next revenue forecast which is set to be announced on March 20.
Higher Education Committees in the House and Senate have been busy in work sessions. The House spent last week hearing from industry representatives on workforce needs including panels from aerospace, software, energy, agriculture and viticulture, biotech, health care and the maritime industry. The panels provided a good overview of each specific industry as legislators consider how and where to invest to ensure we are preparing graduates to meet the workforce needs of employers here in Washington. Western’s budget priorities this year align very well with what we heard last week from industry leaders, specifically regarding a need for engineers and a field of study focused on the new energy economy.
The Senate Higher Education Committee will hear from industry panels this week, followed by a response from the public baccalaureate institutions, community and technical colleges, and private and independent institutions.
Western’s presence in Olympia is a team effort and continues to make a strong impact. President Shepard and Steve Swan, Vice President for University Relations spent two days in Olympia early last week meeting with legislators on a variety of issues important to Western. In a busy two days, this was a great opportunity to highlight Western’s continued commitment to serving the needs of our state. Rich Van Den Hul, Vice President for Business and Financial Affairs made the trip to Olympia to testify on the capital budget, expressing concerns with the first proposal and making a strong case for Western’s priorities in this budget cycle. And on Monday, it was great to see more than 60 Western students spend their day off at the Capitol meeting with lawmakers.
We will continue posting periodic updates from Olympia throughout the legislative session, tracking on bills of interest, and letting you know what’s happening that impacts Western. The final day of the 105-day regular legislative session is scheduled to be April 28.