On March 12, the Washington State Legislature wrapped up its planned 60-day session. Funding to combat the COVID-19 outbreak dominated the final weeks, as lawmakers deliberated how much to spend and how those appropriations should be allocated. Ultimately the legislature dedicated $200 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which has been used for testing kits, hospital capacity, rural hospitals, medical supplies, and benefits for those who file for unemployment as a result of the virus.
It is unclear what next steps the governor and legislature will be taking. All leaders in state government remain focused on public health. As we begin to flatten the curve, attention will turn to the massive and unprecedented economic fallout as a result of shuttering the state’s economy. Before Governor Inslee signed the 2020 supplemental budget, he vetoed millions in new spending, knowing the state will be bringing in significantly less revenue at the same time demands on that revenue will be great.
It is highly likely that further reductions to the state budget will be necessary. The next revenue forecast in June will provide data to the executive and legislative branches on how significant those reductions need to be. At some point, the Governor may call a special legislative session to begin those conversations in advance of writing the 2021 – 2023 biennial budget next year.
As we await these developments, it’s useful to remember that in its regular session, the legislative committees which oversee the higher education sector in the House and Senate deliberated many bills, from potentially instituting an automatic admissions policy to compensating college athletes. There were a number of bills introduced that affect all state agencies, whether through promoting equity, modifying public disclosure requirements, updating HR practices, and much more.
The attached report (PDF) describes all the legislation that passed related to Evergreen and the public higher education sector. Some of the legislation included is applicable to all state agencies. The descriptions provided are surface-level and I am happy to answer any specific questions you may have.
As we have now concluded both regular sessions in the 2019 – 2020 biennium, it’s worth noting Evergreen’s legislative achievements over the past two years. These include:
- Inclusion in the Workforce Education Investment Act, which will provide financial aid for thousands more Washington students
- Securing build-phase funding for a new state-of-the art Student Wellness Center
- Investments in student success through expanding our pre-college immersion programs and a new First-Year Experience program, Greener Foundations
- Legislative support for an innovative design competition to reimagine the college’s utility infrastructure
- Expansion of 75 seats in psychology, our most high-demand program
- Critical infrastructure repairs for the historic Lord Mansion
These successes are shared by all of us. In addition to the 100+ legislators President Bridges and I met with, we have also hosted numerous legislators on campus and at external events. These interactions provided lawmakers the opportunity to see for themselves the value of an Evergreen education and the hard work and dedication of our staff and faculty to serving students.
Over the past two years, the legislature has taken a hard look at the college. They have seen the diverse and dynamic students we serve and the importance of an Evergreen education in our state, and they remain committed to supporting us.
At this writing, we cannot predict what the full economic fallout from the virus will be, or its implications on the state budget. However, I can assure you that President Bridges and I are actively engaging with legislators and telling powerful Evergreen stories. It is more important now than ever for policymakers to understand the unique needs of the students we serve. I urge you to help equip us with stories and anecdotes about our resilient students and model of teaching as Evergreen has adapted to remote learning. Highlighting how our faculty and staff are supporting students during these uncertain times is key to our advocacy efforts.
Thank you to the entire Evergreen community for your continued support of our work with the legislature. Please never hesitate to reach out to me with questions or comments.
Director of Government Relations