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* Legislative session holds keys to SCC budget

LInks

The question isn’t so much what the state Legislature will do, but how they will do it.

That’s what Shoreline Community College students, faculty and staff - and everyone else in the state - are waiting to see when the Washington Legislature is gaveled into regular session, Monday, Jan. 9, 2012.

The top priority is clear: Fill in the rest of a $2 billion hole in the state budget identified in September by Gov. Chris Gregoire. Lawmakers already had one crack at it, but only got a quarter of the way there. In November, Gregoire proposed an all-cuts supplemental budget and then called lawmakers to Olympia on Nov. 28, 2011 for a special session.

On Dec. 14, legislators passed a supplemental budget that included a package of financial moves designed to save the state about $500 million. The rest, they said, would come in the regular session.

What they didn’t say is how it would come.

As passed, the supplemental budget doesn’t include any general decrease to community and technical college budgets. It also preserves funding for the State Need Grant and Work Study programs. The supplemental budget does not contemplate any savings from additional furloughs or changes to employee compensation in the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 2012.

Based on the supplemental budget, Shoreline is not required to make any reductions to its current operating budget for this fiscal year.

However, the special session left approximately $1.5 billion worth of work for the regular session and little beyond the Governor’s proposal to indicate just how that work might get done.

“The Legislature could impose cuts for the current year when it returns in January,” said Vice President for Administrative Services Daryl Campbell. “We have no indication that they plan to do so, but it is always a possibility.”

While Gregoire’s plan was largely sidestepped by lawmakers during the special session, it does offer one possible scenario. If adopted, it would reduce funding for Shoreline and the rest of the community and technical colleges, but not until July, 1, 2012. The Governor’s proposal would:

  • Cut state funding to Community and Technical Colleges by approximately 13 percent.
  • For Shoreline Community College, a 13 percent reduction could mean between $2 million and $2.5 million in 2012-13.
  • Suspend the State Work Study program for fiscal year 2012-13.
  • Leave State Need Grant funding intact.
  • Impose no additional furloughs or pay cuts. However, Classified staff would be subject to a 3 percent wage/salary reduction previously negotiated at the state level with Classified union representatives. Also, Shoreline President Lee Lambert has said that Shoreline’s administrative employee contracts would also sustain a 3 percent reduction, effective July 1, 2012.

The $2 billion target is based on September and November revenue projections that suggest the state will be $1.4 billion – perhaps more - short of budgeted expenses. Gregoire proposed a little more than $2 billion in cuts, leaving the state with about $600 million as a hedge against further economic uncertainties. The next state revenue projection is scheduled on or before Feb. 20, 2012.

While Gregoire presented a balanced, all-cuts budget as required, she also separately proposed a revenue package titled, “Revenue Alternatives for Building a Better Future.”

The core of the revenue package is a half-cent increase in the state’s portion of the sales tax that would end in 2015. Of the $494 million in projected revenue from the sales-tax increase, Gregoire would use $411 million would buy back the bulk of the cuts she proposed for education. For community and technical colleges, that could include avoiding the 13 percent general reduction and reinstating Work Study.

The sales-tax increase would have to be approved by voters and, if the Legislature passes it, could appear on a ballot perhaps as soon as March.

Gregoire also proposes to raise new revenue from business-tax increases and eliminating tax exemptions. Those increases could be imposed by the Legislature, $59 million-worth with a simple majority vote and another $282 million requiring a two-thirds supermajority approval.

Although not part of Gregoire’s proposal or the Legislature’s supplemental budget, there are six pages of bills that the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges is monitoring for the possible effects on community and technical colleges. Here are just two:

  • Differential tuition – In 2011, the Legislature gave the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges the ability to charge differential tuition rates for various programs. However, a 12 percent cap on the overall tuition increase was left in place, making use of differential rates of no use. It appears that the Legislature may revisit differential tuition, and Shoreline is preparing for that possibility.
  • Remedial math – There may be legislation focused on improving outcomes for pre-college math students.

SCC/Jim Hills

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