Here is a brief update from your Government Relations Team:
- HECC recommends capital and operating budgets for the 2019-21 biennium
- Statewide measures qualify for the November general election ballot
- An election reminder for public employees
HECC recommends capital and operating budgets for the 2019-21 biennium
On Thursday, August 2, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) approved recommendations for capital and operating budgets for community colleges and universities, as well as for financial aid programs for the 2019-21 biennium. The next play is in the Governor’s hands as she develops a comprehensive budget proposal due in late November/early December.
PUSF: The HECC approved a base budget for the Public University Support Fund (PUSF) that does not reflect the Current Service Level (CSL) identified by universities but includes policy option packages (POPs) that would increase state spending for higher education from $737 million for the current biennium to $923 million, a 25% increase. University presidents have indicated that at least $867 million is needed to keep tuition increases below 5% for each of the next two years. The HECC proposal would enable much-needed investments in student success and retention at all seven universities.
OSU Statewides: The HECC recommended a total budget for the OSU Agricultural Experiment Station, Extension and Forest Research Laboratory of $138 million, an increase of 11% over the 2017-19 level. This level is roughly equivalent to “CSL” for the programs but does not fill a $4 million hole created by underfunding for the current biennium. The Statewides are in discussions with a broad range of stakeholders regarding future funding needs for these programs.
Oregon Opportunity Grants: The HECC also recommended a whopping $107 million (73%) increase in funding for the Oregon Opportunity Grant program — the primary source of state-funded financial aid for university students administered by the Oregon Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC). While still focused on providing aid to those students with the highest need, the increase will open the program to serve an estimated 16,150 Pell-eligible students currently attending universities and community colleges. Under this funding level, OSAC will be able to maintain a grant amount that is approximately equal to 15% of the average cost of attendance at a 2- or 4- year public college or university.
Capital Construction: The HECC approved a revised staff ranking of 15 capital projects for the seven universities, totaling $353 million in state bonds for the 2019-21 biennium. For the current biennium, including actions taken during the 2018 session, the legislature approved $339 million in capital funding for university projects. The HECC supported all 15 projects on the list and did not seek to “draw a line” at a recommended dollar figure for capital spending that was less than the total figure.
In order of the HECC’s ranking, OSU-related projects include:
1. Capital renewal, to be distributed among all seven universities based on a yet-to-be revised formula: $65M, supported by all seven universities
2. Cordley Hall Renovation: $28M state bonds
6. Arts & Education Complex: $35M state bonds, matched by an additional $35M in donor funds
11. OSU-Cascades Student Success Center: $12M state bonds, matched by an additional $5M in student-approved fees
15. OSU-Cascades Land Development: $17.5M state bonds
For the complete rank ordered list: https://www.oregon.gov/highered/about/Documents/Commission/COMMISSION/2018/2-August%202018/12.1c%20University%20Capital%20List.pdf
Among others, OSU President Ed Ray, ASCC Director of Legislative Affairs Cygnus Simpson, and Now4 OSU-Cascades submitted letters addressing concerns about the current rubric used to rank projects.
In a draft letter to the Governor HECC acknowledged difficulties with the current rubric. For OSU-Cascades it suggested, “modifying the Rubric to reward new construction – especially if the university has provided a mechanism to ensure that it is continually maintained and thereby does not impose future deferred maintenance obligations upon the state.”
The HECC letter to the Governor concludes:
The HECC recognizes that the Rubric is an imperfect tool for prioritizing capital requests, and we are committed to continually examining how it can be improved. The Commission has recently launched a major effort to assess the state’s 10-year university capital needs given the current inventory of public university buildings, demographic and educational trends, workforce needs, and the state’s higher education goals. We expect that the results of this effort will help the Commission become more strategic in future efforts to score and rank university capital requests.
Next Steps: The focus now turns to the Governor who must prepare a budget for the 2019-21 biennium for legislative consideration. For the current biennium, in December of 2016, the Governor proposed no general fund increases (CSL or otherwise) for public universities. If we have a new Governor, the incoming Governor will have an opportunity to introduce a different budget. The Agency Request Budgets will remain as the starting place, the level of specificity will likely change, and the overall approach may be significantly different.
Five statewide measures qualify for the November general election ballot
Measure 102 – Allow Municipal Bond Revenue to Fund Privately Owned Affordable Housing
Certified Ballot Title: Amends Constitution: Allows local bonds for financing affordable housing with nongovernmental entities. Requires voter approval, annual audits
Summary: This measure is a legislative referral (HJR 201). It would amend the state constitution to allow counties, cities, and towns to—with voter approval and certain restrictions—use bond revenue to fund the construction of affordable housing without necessarily retaining complete ownership of the constructed housing. Currently, the state constitution does not allow revenue from bond issues to be used in a project with private owners or stakeholders.
A “yes” vote allows local governments to issue bonds to finance affordable housing with nongovernmental entities.
A “no” vote retrains the constitutional prohibition on local governments raising money for/loaning cred to nongovernmental entities.
Measure 103 – Ban Taxes on Groceries
Certified Ballot Title: Amends Constitution: Prohibits taxes/fees based on transactions for “groceries” (defined) enacted after September 2017
Summary: Oregon has no statewide sales tax, but has no law preventing local governments from establishing such a sales tax. Therefore, local governments could enact local taxes. This measure would prevent local governments from establishing taxes on groceries. It would also retroactively prohibit any taxes, fees, or assessments on the sale of groceries adopted or enacted on or after October 1, 2017. Alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana is not included in the definition of groceries.
A “yes” vote amends the state constitution and prohibits state/local taxes/fees based on transactions for groceries.
A “no” vote retains state/local government authority to enact or amend taxes, fees, or transactions on groceries.
Measure 104 – Three-Fifths Majority Requirement for Raising Revenue
Certified Ballot Title: Amends Constitution: Expands (beyond taxes) application of requirement that three-fifths legislative majority approve bills raising revenue
Summary: The measure would define “raising revenue” in the state constitution to include changes to tax exemptions, credits, and deductions that result in increased revenue, as well as the creation or increase of taxes and fees.
Presently, the constitution requires a three-fifths vote of the House and Senate to pass bills raising revenue (via Measure 25, 1996). In 2015, the Oregon Supreme Court issued a ruling that the Legislative Counsel said excluded bills to reduce tax breaks, such as exemptions and credits, from the three-fifths vote requirement.
A “yes” vote requires approval of three-fifths majority of both houses of legislature for any fee/tax increase, including changes to exemptions, credits, deductions, rates.
A “no” vote retains current constitutional requirement that three-fifths legislative majority approve bills for raising revenue; does not apply to fees, other increases in revenue.
Measure 105 – Repeal Oregon Sanctuary State Law
Certified Ballot Title: Repeals law limiting use of state/local law enforcement resources to enforce federal immigration laws
Summary: The measure would repeal the state law that which forbids state agencies, including law enforcement, from using state resources or personnel to detect or apprehend persons whose only violation of the law is that of federal immigration law.
A “yes” vote repeals law limiting (with exceptions) use of state/local law enforcement resources for “detecting”/“apprehending” persons accused only of violating federal immigration laws.
A “no” vote retains law limiting (with exceptions) use of state/local law enforcement resources for “detecting”/“apprehending” persons accused only of violating federal immigration laws.
Measure 106 – Constitutional Ban on Public Funds for Abortion Services
Certified Ballot Title: Amends Constitution: Prohibits spending “public funds” (defined) directly/indirectly for “abortion” (defined); exceptions; reduces abortion access
Summary: The measure would prohibit public funds from being spent on abortions, except when medically necessary or required by federal law. Under the measure, an abortion would qualify as medically necessary if a licensed physician determines that a woman would suffer an injury or death unless an abortion is performed. Under the measure, public funds may be spent on abortions in circumstances of rape or incest or diagnosed ectopic pregnancies.
A “yes” vote amends the constitution, prohibits spending public funds directly or indirectly for any abortion and health plans insurance covering abortion.
A “no” vote retrains current law that places nor restrictions on spending public funds for abortion or health plans covering abortion when approved by a medical professional.
With the approach of the November elections, the information below provides guidance for public employees in their official capacity relating to election and political matters.
Public employees may not engage in certain political activity while on the job during working hours, under ORS 260.432. The statute prohibits public employees from promoting or opposing the adoption of a ballot measure, or a candidate for public office, while on the job during working hours. It also prohibits any person from requiring or attempting to require other public employees to give money, service or anything of value to promote or oppose a ballot measure or a candidate.
The statute does not mean that you give up your individual rights to engage in political activity as a result of your public employment. However, it is important to be clear when you are speaking in your private capacity. The Secretary of State notes that the use of a working title tends to indicate that an employee is acting in the employee’s official capacity. It would be prudent for you to avoid using your OSU title if you promote or oppose candidates or ballot measures. If there is any question about the capacity in which you are speaking or acting, it would also be prudent for you to expressly state that you are speaking and acting in your private capacity and not as an OSU employee.
The Oregon Secretary of State has published valuable guidance on this law, titled “Restrictions on Political Campaigning by Public Employees, ORS 260.432.” The guidance can be found at: http://sos.oregon.gov/elections/Documents/restrictions.pdf.
The penalties for non-compliance with this statute are potentially severe. The Secretary of State may impose a civil penalty of up to $1000 for each violation, and the district attorney or a taxpayer may seek recovery of any improper expenditure of public funds in connection with promotion or opposition of a candidate or ballot measure.
If you have any questions about this matter, please feel free to contact the Oregon State University Office of Human Resources at: firstname.lastname@example.org.