The final day of the 2007 legislative session has finally arrived. Both the Senate and House convened at 11:00 a.m. and the Senate promptly passed a family leave bill that requires all private and public employers in the state to provide up to five weeks of paid family leave by 2009, but leaves to a future task force the more difficult questions of how to pay for it.
The Senate is expected to take up the operating budget this afternoon followed soon after by the House. Negotiations on the WASL continue and I’m going to head back up to the capitol building to find out what’s going on there.
I hope those of you who like to follow matters in Olympia found the blog to be of interest and help this year. I welcome your comments and feedback if you would like to see changes in the future.
I’ll post another entry later today after the budgets have passed the legislature.
First things first. In the Spotlight section of the State Relations website, you will find a link to the 2007 Legislative Session Summary. Hopefully, you will find this to be an informative summary of the operating and capital budgets for the UW as well as a summary of legislation that passed this year affecting the University and all of higher education.
The Senate has gone home for the evening but not before they passed the biennial capital budget by a vote of 46-0. The House is still working, but debate on the WASL is as intense as I have seen it all session. The Governor was meeting behind closed doors today with House and Senate education leaders but there is still no consensus on how to move forward. The dreaded “special session” word has been mentioned more than once today in the rotunda, but hope remains that a consensus can be found before tomorrow’s scheduled adjournment.
The final legislative operating budget was released today at noon. For the University, the budget ended up almost precisely where is began almost four months ago. State appropriations of $105 million represent the largest percentage increase in taxpayer support for the UW since the 1987-89 biennium. Together with revenue from tuition and other fees, the total budget increase will put the University on track to close our per student funding gap with other Global Challenge State peer institutions to the 50th percentile within 7 years and the 60th percentile within 8 years.
By the end of the day I will post a full summary of both the operating and capital budget proposals for the UW. Action on both budgets is expected tomorrow, the final day of the 2007 legislative session.
In other news today, Governor Gregoire signed the UW’s request bill (SHB 2164) which will help to limit unwanted private development within the boundaries of the UW Tacoma master plan. Regent Fred Kiga and Chancellor Pat Spakes were joined by several Tacoma area legislators including Sen. Debbie Regala, Sen. Marilyn Rassmussen, Rep. Steve Conway and Rep. Jeannie Darneille for the signing ceremony in the Governor’s Office.
The conference report on the 2007-09 capital budget was released last night around 9:30 p.m. Funding for UW projects was identical to the Governor and Senate budgets with more than $143 million in new state support making this the best overall capital budget for the University in a decade. A detailed summary of the capital budget will be available later today.
The bigger surprise was that legislative capital budget negotiators have apparently decided that the answer to meeting higher education needs in the Snohomish-Island-Skagit county area is for the UW to establish a third branch campus in that area. The University is granted the same authority to govern and operate the campus that it currently has in Bothell and Tacoma. The UW will work with OFM between now and the next legislative session on issues related to site selection and campus formation. A total of $4 million in new funding is provided.
Here is the lead story from this morning’s Everett Herald on the new UW campus.
The 2007-09 operating budget will be released at noon today in Olympia.
As if on cue, the weather has turned remarkably beautiful this afternoon and that generally means that the end of session is right around the corner. “Sine Die” is Latin for “without day” and is used to refer to legislative bodies whose terms are coming to an end. For the 2007 Washington State Legislature, that means midnight (or sooner) this Sunday April 22.
As of 4:30 p.m. this afternoon, we were still waiting for public information on the biennial capital budget which was finished yesterday. What’s delaying matters is House and Senate conferees refusing to sign the conference report (the vehicle that they will vote on to pass the capital budget) until each chamber passes a bill important to both sides. Hopefully, that will occur tonight and we will have certainty on our 2007-09 construction budget.
As for the operating budget, final decisions were made at noon today and we understand the bill has gone to the printer. The plan is to sign the operating budget conference report tomorrow morning and details are expected to be available by noon. Legislative rules require that conference reports literally rest on the bar (rostrum) of each chamber for 24 hours before the bodies can act on them. That means voting on the budgets won’t occur until Sunday.
One issue that is now totally resolved is the higher education Washington Learns legislation. I attended the Governor’s signing ceremony this afternoon for SB 5806. I was joined by representatives from the Governor’s office, Council of Presidents, WSU, the Washington Student Lobby, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and several legislators including prime sponsor Sen. Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville), Sen. Paull Shin (D-Edmonds), Sen. Jerome Delvin (R-Richland) and Rep. Deb Wallace (D-Vancouver).
I will be here all weekend waiting patiently for our operating and capital budgets. As soon as information becomes available, I will post summaries to the website so check back on Saturday and Sunday to see what’s up.
The pace of budget negotiations in Olympia noticeably quickened yesterday. When House and Senate fiscal leaders walk frequently together between chambers, experienced observers know that discussions on the budget are getting down to the final last few items. Yesterday’s persistent rumor was that the capital budget was finished and that the operating budget could be ready by Saturday morning. That all but assures lawmakers will not be able to finish early, although finishing on time (Sunday April 22 is Sine Die) has a nice ring to it.
Specific details on the spending proposals have not yet been released or even leaked, but higher education folks were buoyed yesterday by the demeanor of House Appropriations chair Rep. Helen Sommers (D-Seattle). Sommers, who is legendary for her “game face” had a noticeable smile for much of the day as she walked to and from negotiations with the Senate.
When you are on the outside looking into the state budget negotiations, the anticipation of what the final product will look like can be pretty frustrating. I’ve been gone from legislative staff for more than three years now, and I can truthfully say the only part of the process that I still really miss are the final negotiations on the budget when dozens of seemingly unrelated issues get hyper-linked in a flurry of activity that makes the frozen concentrated orange juice futures trading scene at the end of Trading Places seem like a Sotheby’s art auction.
So, what do expectant budget watchers do to pass the time and keep from going stir crazy? Here are ten common practices that I’ve noticed (and yes, engaged in) here at the State Capitol.
1. Stand between the Senate and House chambers trying to look disinterested when a budget negotiator or staffer walks by. Silently pray that they will come up to talk to you so you can casually ask how things are going.
2. Ask political reporters what they are hearing (and they will invariably ask you what you have heard).
3. Walk around Capitol Lake to displace nervous energy.
4. Write endless rough drafts of “end of session reports,” changing fonts and margins to suit your hourly mood.
5. Circle fourth floor of Capitol Rotunda in a counter-clockwise motion, pondering why the railings are so low. Sit in House public gallery until noticed by at least one legislator. Repeat in clockwise motion sitting in Senate gallery.
6. Attend bill signing ceremony on legislation sponsored by budget negotiators in hopes their good mood will reveal information on budget negotiations.
7. Walk around Capitol Lake again to displace nervous energy.
8. Pretend to be interested in issues being worked on by other lobbyists.
9. Complain about the lack of new Washington State trivia questions on TVW.
10. Go home at a reasonable hour; eat dinner with family; sleep.
Like many of you, I was very distracted yesterday watching the television reports of the campus shootings at Virginia Tech University. It was hard to focus on the comparatively mundane matters of Olympia when faced with a tragedy of such magnitude.
Nevertheless, there were important developments yesterday that are worth mentioning and that will have implications on the resolution of the state budget. Last evening, the House Appropriations Committee passed the Senate versions of the constitutional rainy day fund bill by a vote of 22-11, despite the objections of the chair, Rep. Helen Sommers (D-Seattle).
Since this had been a major obstacle to budget discussions, most observers expect negotiators to be able to finish their negotiations within the next couple of days. The full House is expected to act on the bill quickly and legislative leaders have expressed a strong desire to adjourn by Friday or perhaps Saturday at the very latest.
I don’t have much to report on the status of operating budget negotiations. Members are making progress, but many big issues remain unresolved, including some major higher education spending items.
To insure I won’t be bored or restless, the “legislative gods” have kept me busy over the past 72 hours working on issues related to the State Route 520 bridge replacement project. Senate Bill 6099 establishes a mediator-driven process to work with all affected parties on the Seattle side of the bridge (including the UW) to help resolve issues that will inevitably arise from various design options.
One issue that has cropped up of late is a concern among some that Sound Transit, DOT, King County Metro and the UW are not working closely together to insure that a new light rail stop at Husky Stadium can accomodate other forms of rapid transit. Today’s Seattle P-I has a story on this subject.
Language my office has worked on during the past two days which was included in the version of SB 6099 (which passed the House floor early this afternoon), will hopefully insure a fair and balanced process for working on these multi-modal issues as they affect the new light rail station and other parts of the campus. Without getting into a lot of details, some of the negotiations have been difficult, but then a wise person once told me “Life wouldn’t be any fun if it was easy.”
The House and Senate will work furiously tonight to meet a 5:00 p.m. deadline to pass legislation from the opposite chamber. Both the House and Senate have scheduled full sessions for tomorrow so it looks like a long weekend ahead. Sine Die is still Sunday April 22.
This morning Governor Gregoire signed SHB 1398 which expands the UW and WSU’s ability to issue debt backed by locally controlled revenues. This expanded statutory authority is key to the long-term financing of the UW Tower and future University capital projects.
This evening, the state Senate passed SHB 2164 which would help to curtail unwelcome development projects within the boundaries of the UW Tacoma campus. The vote was 46-3 and since the bill was not amended in the Senate, it can be delivered directly to the Governor for her action.
Not much new news today on the budget negotiations. Conferees continue to trade offers and it appears that at least conceptual agreement has been reached on the overall spending levels in the operating budget and the size of the ending reserve. Still no word of a formal agreement on the rainy day fund proposal. Capital budget negotiators have indicated that they are getting close to a working agreement.
Lobbyists for the Seattle Supersonics new facility continued to work both chambers today as a new, and somewhat smaller public financing proposal is being worked on. The Senate Ways and Means Committee has announced a Friday committee meeting to discuss and take action on the new proposal.