With the state legislative session at about the halfway mark, many policy bills of interest to the UW remain alive, while other bills that have financial implications will remain in play until the legislature concludes its work by adopting the 2011-13 biennial budget, Margaret Shepherd, director of state relations, reported March 7.
The state revenue forecast for the coming two years will be announced March 17, and speculation is that it will project additional declines in tax revenues.
The House has already announced its goal of producing a state budget bill by March 21. “They are already drafting the biennial budget, at least in broad terms,” Shepherd said. The Senate has not announced a target date for its bill because negotiations between Democrats and Republicans there are ongoing.
Bills that relate to the governors Higher Education Funding Task Force are still alive and being debated. In the House, a separate bill sponsored by Rep. Reuven Carlyle, which would grant the states universities tuition-setting authority for resident undergraduates for the next four years, is still being discussed. The bill would require that a tuition increase totaling more than 11 percent in any year be mitigated by additional financial aid. The bill contains additional measures for monitoring and accountability. The bill also could allow institutions to establish differential tuition for different programs.
Another bill, which would give the University more flexibility on building fees and other capital resources, has passed out of the Senate. Other bills which would allow the University to manage its resources more efficiently remain under discussion in both houses.
A bill that would change pension policy, limiting the ability of the UW to enroll professional staff in the UW Retirement Plan and also capping the institutional match of pension contributions at 6 percent, remains under discussion. The UW is seeking what Shepherd calls “fair” language that would allow the UW to set broad parameters on who would be eligible for the UWs retirement plan, recognizing that this is a key recruiting element for professional staff and librarians. The 6 percent cap is likely to be approved by the House, but its possible the Senate could take a different approach, Shepherd said.
The governors proposal for a broad reorganization of all of education is getting a decidedly mixed reaction in the legislature. The House has turned the reorganization into a study proposal, while the Senate is working on two bills – one that would reorganize portions of K-12 administration, and another that would restructure the Higher Education Coordinating Board. This proposal is one of the governors key priorities, but legislative reaction has been tepid.
Many legislators will be holding town hall meetings in their districts this weekend to hear their constituents concerns. A list of those meetings is available on the State Relations blog.