The 80th Legislative Assembly officially convened on Tuesday, January 22nd. Committees have begun to hold hearings on the well over 1,400 bills that have been pre-session filed. Over the next six months, more than double that number will ultimately be introduced for consideration.
The Overall Outlook
With Democrats holding super majorities in both chambers, the legislature is actively considering various revenue raising alternatives, as well as a number of significant policy bills aimed at gun safety, and reducing carbon emissions, to name two of the more prominent concerns.
Other bills that OSU will be tracking this session include topics such as:
- Transferability of academic credits
- Accelerated credit program requirements
- Campus safety
- Textbook affordability measures
- Economic & workforce development initiatives
If you have questions about any bills found on the legislative website, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
The Higher Education Budget
Operating Funds. As outlined in November, the Governor’s proposed budget flat-funds the universities and eliminates key programs but then offers increases contingent upon the passage of a yet-to-be defined $2 billion tax increase. Given the legislative focus on funding for early learning and K-12, her aim was to place the universities squarely into the discussion about tax increases and how to distribute new revenues among state-funded activities.
Legislators have initially balked at the prospect of devoting new taxes to the universities, but it is just a week into the session. In 2017, after the Governor flat-funded the universities, the legislature responded with a $70 million increase. While it is clear that legislators will likely increase funding for Oregon’s public universities, it remains to be seen whether the Governor’s ploy will enable the kind of increases she is seeking.
Universities currently receive about 6% of Oregon’s current general fund capacity, but the Governor’s investment package for the 2019-21 biennium devotes almost 20% of the proposed new revenues – should they be successful — to a variety of university programs, including a $120 million increase in support for university programs. It will take a number of months before concrete proposals and options emerge, both regarding taxes and investments.
Under the Governor’s proposed base budget for higher education, some institutions are indicating they would be forced to consider double digit tuition increases and widespread reductions to programs. The OSU Board of Trustees is considering budget alternatives that would seek to keep tuition increases below 5%. Reductions would focus on administrative and other costs but would likely also reach into academic and student support programs and staff. In short, students would face a tuition increase while experiencing severe reductions in access and quality.
The Governor’s proposal to increase university funding by $120 million (16%) would enable all seven public universities to keep tuition from rising by more than 5%. While this funding level would meet most cost increases for state-mandated health insurance and retirement programs and would enable universities to hold tuition increases to less than 5% it would not enable any expanded or new programs aimed at increasing affordability, accessibility or student success.
All universities are supporting the $186 million (25%) increase recommended by the Governor-appointed Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC). At OSU, this level of funding would enable grants to students facing financial difficulties, additional advising and financial aid assistance, and supplemental tutoring and gateway courses aimed at underrepresented minority and first generation students.
Capital Funding. The Governor’s budget also proposes to postpone most investments in university capital projects — including the Student Success Center on the OSU-Cascades campus and the Arts & Education Complex on the Corvallis campus — until the 2020 legislative session. The delay is to enable the completion of a legislatively mandated HECC 10-year strategic capital investment plan. During the 2018 session, legislators called for a review, but the HECC was unable to contract for the work to be done prior to evaluating projects proposed by the universities for the 2019-21 biennium. Among other goals, the HECC analysis is intended to create clarity around enrollment trends across university campuses, while also determining how to equitably incorporate OSU-Cascades in future capital budgeting decisions. Without the study, legislators have expressed reservations over investing the state’s debt capacity in Oregon’s public universities.
Meanwhile, for the 2019 session, the Governor has proposed investing $65 million for capital improvement and renewal to be distributed by a HECC formula to all seven universities. She has also proposed smaller amounts for two projects intended to address specific health and safety issues.
The Governor plans to reserve $225 million in bonding capacity for the universities to be distributed in the 2020 session following the completion of the HECC’s study. Because bond sales for these projects would not occur until June of 2021, waiting until 2020 will not result in a significant delay in funding for projects, though it will mean that those who are providing matching funds will not be certain of the bonding until 2020.
In sum, the current climate around capital spending is uncertain and fluid. OSU and the other universities will be spending the initial weeks of the session gauging how and when legislative leaders wish to consider university capital investments. It remains to be seen whether, and how, they may reserve a significant amount of the state’s debt capacity for Oregon’s public universities. If funding can be protected, a delay in consideration could warrant more rational capital investments. With or without a delay, universities are united in supporting $285 million (in addition to the funding proposed by the Governor for 2019) to ensure that the challenges facing all of the university campuses can be addressed over the next biennium. Under the current HECC rubric, the OSU-Cascades capital projects would likely not be funded if only $225 million in bonding capacity were reserved.
OSU’s Legislative Priorities
Joint Public University Priorities
- $285 million reserved in university capital bonding capacity for the 2020 legislative session, following the completion of the Higher Education Coordinating Commission’s (HECC) 10-year capital assessment and subsequent report to the Legislature (dependent on further legislative conversation).
- Shared Capital Renewal Fund: $65 million in state bonds – allocated in the 2019 session – for deferred maintenance. These are distributed among all seven universities based on a HECC formula.
- $186 million increase to the Public University Support Fund in the revenue package to invest in student affordability, access and success and protect students against major tuition increases. At least $120 million to ensure tuition does not increase by more than 5%.
- Continuation and expansion of the Engineering and Technology Sustaining Funds (Governor proposes $60 million total allocation in her investment budget, and eliminates the program in the base GRB).
- Continue and fully fund the Sports Lottery Scholarship program (Governor proposes the statutory allocation of $14.1 million in her investment budget and eliminates the program in the base GRB).
- Increased funding for the Oregon Opportunity Grant (GRB investment budget includes a $121.5 million increase).
- At least $10 million for University Innovation Research Fund (included in GRB investment package). The program would be included in the budget for the Oregon Business Development Department.
OSU Capital Projects for the 2019-21 biennium:
- OSU-Cascades Student Success Center: $12 million in state bonds, matched by an additional $5 million in student-approved fees ($50/quarter/student collected over the last three years).
- Arts & Education Complex: $35 million in state bonds, matched by an additional $35 million in donor funds.
- Cordley Capital Renewal: $28 million state bonds for Cordley Hall Renovation (second phase), matched by an additional $28 million in university funds.
Additional Operating Budget Priorities
- $30 million increase for the three Statewide Public Service Programs (Extension, Agricultural Experiment Station & Forest Research Laboratory). This investment will restore, maintain, and build essential research and Extension programs that address Oregon’s most critical needs in natural resource science and stewardship, sustainable agricultural, food, and natural resource production, and community health and resilience.
- $1.6 million in state match for a $40 million US Department of Energy marine energy grant to construct a wave energy test site off the Oregon Coast.
Timeline of activities anticipated for the 2019 Session
January 22: Opening Day
Mid-February: Quarterly Revenue Forecast (serves as the base for Co-Chairs’ Recommended Budget)
Late February – early March: Co-Chairs’ Budget released
February – March: Ways & Means field hearings (tentative)
March 18: OSU Statewides Day at the Capitol
April TBD: Ways & Means Operating Budget Hearings
April 17: OSU Day at the Capitol MARK YOUR CALENDARS
May: Quarterly Revenue Forecast (serves as the basis for Legislatively Adopted Budget)
May: TBD Ways & Means Capital Hearings
June 30: Constitutional Sine Die
Beaver Caucus Update
At its December meeting, the Beaver Caucus named OSU Corvallis student Dylan Perfect and OSU-Cascades student Tessa Moody to serve on the Beaver Caucus Board of Directors. Dylan is a second year student in the University Exploratory studies program with an interest in English and Political Science. Tessa is a third year student from Hillsboro majoring in art and minoring in sustainability. The Beaver Caucus is a 501(c)(4) organization that seeks to support Oregon State University in the legislative process. For more information about the Beaver Caucus, click here.
Questions, concerns, comments? Contact Jock Mills, Director, OSU Government Relations.