On Wednesday, Governor Kate Brown issued an outline of her key objectives for 2016, including the short legislative session, which convenes on Monday, February 1. Under Oregon’s Constitution, legislators must adjourn by Saturday, March 5.
- View the Governor’s Agenda for 2016 here.
One of the most significant items on the Governor’s list is her proposal to increase the minimum wage. The proposal includes a six-year phased-in $13.50/hour statewide wage, with a $15.52 wage for the Portland Urban Growth Boundary to address that area’s higher cost of living. (Oregon’s current minimum wage of $9.25/hour is the nation’s second highest.) Democratic legislative leaders are interested in enacting state minimum wage legislation in February to stave off a November ballot measure that would involve a two-year phase-in of a $15/hour wage.
Legislative budget writers have asked universities to identify the potential fiscal impact of the Governor’s proposal. Impacts will likely involve activities that are funded by tuition and state appropriations as well as activities that are funded by auxiliary funds (such as athletics and housing and dining). Student fees are also used to support some on campus minimum wage jobs.
- See The Oregonian’s coverage of the minimum wage proposal here.
A number of the Governor’s other priorities may be of interest to various units at OSU, including:
- An Executive Order establishing the Governor’s Council on Educator Advancement, charged with coordinating comprehensive support to deliver excellence in teaching through leadership development, mentorship and best practices (yet to be posted);
- Establishment of a Governor-appointed Campus Safety Working Group (last month OSU provided suggestions for participants in this group);
- Appointment of a State Resilience Officer to deal with earthquake preparedness;
- A drought package funding proposal to help local communities plan for and address persistent drought; and
- A wildfire funding proposal to cover costs incurred during the 2015 wildfire season.
House Republican Leader Mike McLane issued a response to the Governor’s priorities, which you can find here.
University Priorities for the 2016 session
Not included on the Governor’s list of priorities are a number of legislative initiatives supported by OSU and the other public universities in Oregon, including OHSU. Chief among them is the renewal of the University Venture Development Fund (UVDF) tax credit. Reps. Andy Olson (R-Albany) and Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) have joined to introduce HB 4072, which would renew the credit for a six-year term. For information on the bill, see our UVDF Fact Sheet.
Universities are also seeking $15 million in increased funding to continue progress made last session to increase student completion rates. While the legislature’s Ways & Means leadership appear to believe that additional funding will be scarce, universities and students contend additional funding is needed to maintain improvements attained during the 2015 session.
Other university priorities include support for a legislatively referred constitutional amendment to enable universities to invest in equities. The original bill that established university governing boards in 2013 included a provision that enabled universities to invest their funds in equities (stocks). The intention was to provide universities with more investment options that could result in both higher yields and greater stability. Subsequent legal opinions indicate that this change cannot be accomplished through statutory changes; the state constitution has to be amended. As a result, the universities are seeking a legislatively approved ballot referral to put the matter on the November 2016 ballot.
Universities are also seeking an equitable approach for developing the 2017-19 budget. Legislation that established universities as independent public entities resulted in state budget writers recommending future budgets that do not include an accurate calculation of Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) and public employee health insurance – Public Employees Benefit Board (PEBB) – costs. During the 2015 legislative session, budget writers determined that a 3.3% increase would be needed to provide the same level of services in the 2015-17 biennium – the “Continuing Service Level” (CSL). Universities claim an accurate calculation of the state-mandated PERS and PEBB costs for the current biennium would have involved at least an 8% CSL increase. Because uncompensated PERS and PEBB costs will be borne by students and will erode current state investments in student success, universities are seeking a legislatively endorsed process by which a more accurate and equitable methodology is used to calculate the CSL for 2017-19.
State matching funds for a $5 million Federal Marine Energy Grant. In December, Congress appropriated $5 million to the US Department of Energy to fund a competitive grant to further develop a wave energy test facility. This initial funding could grow over the next three to five years to a federal investment totaling $40 million, with the expectation that successful competitors for the grant will provide at least a 25% match, or $10 million. The total project — including federal and non-federal funding — is expected to be $50 million. Oregon will be competing with other states that are developing their own matching proposals for this long-term funding opportunity. Coastal legislators are pursuing state legislation for 2016 that would appropriate the first installment of $1.25 million in state matching funds to enable OSU to compete for the initial $5 million grant. Last week, the House Energy & Environment Committee agreed to carry the proposal as a committee bill.
The Session Ahead
University Lobby Day: Mark your calendars! All seven universities will be holding a unified lobbying day on Thursday, February 11. Activities for the day will include individual meetings with legislators seeking support for the higher education agenda, as well as a reception. Register to participate here. More detailed information will be forthcoming in the next week. If you have questions, please contact Karli Olsen.
Bill Tracking: The OSU Government Relations Office will be tracking legislation throughout the month-long session. While the volume of bills will not be nearly as great as during the six-month session, timelines will be extremely fast. For example, legislative committees have about ten days to approve bills before the bills become ineligible for consideration. If you are aware of issues that you’d like us to track, please contact Karli Olsen.
Legislative town halls with local legislators:
- Thursday, January 27, 3:30-5:30, Memorial Union, Journey Room, sponsored by ASOSU. State Sen. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis/Albany) and State Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) will participate.
- Saturday, January 30, 10:00-noon, Corvallis/Benton County Library, sponsored by the League of Women Voters. This forum will also include local state legislators.
If you have questions or would like additional information about any of the items above, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Jock Mills, Director, email@example.com
Karli Olsen, Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org
For Federal matters: Gabrielle Serra, Federal Relations Director, email@example.com