Students, Faculty, Staff, and Presidents Call for Increased Funding for Public Universities

In a letter to legislative leaders, students, faculty, staff, and presidents of the public universities called for at least another $100 million in state investments from the level proposed last month by Governor Kate Brown.

Our unified funding request highlights and supports the following reality: To keep tuition increases below five percent at most universities, and also preserve most financial aid and student support services, state investment in the Public University Support Fund (PUSF) will need to increase by at least $100 million above the Governor’s Budget—in the 2017-19 biennium.

You can find a copy of the letter on the OSU Government Relations website and coverage of the accompanying press release in The Oregonian.

Legislators Organize for the 2017 Legislative Session

Legislators met last week to organize for the 2017 legislative session, which will begin in earnest on Wednesday, February 1st.  As expected, they elected leadership – Sen. Peter Courtney (D-Salem) will serve in an unprecedented eighth term as Senate President and Rep. Tina Kotek (D-Portland) will serve in her third term as Speaker of the House.  The leaders have announced committee rosters, and the approximately 1,700 bills that had been filed in December are now posted on the legislative website.

The Speaker and Senate President have referred the first wave of bills to the relevant committees for consideration.  We expect two or three more waves of new bills in the coming weeks as legislators complete the drafting process.  We will be notifying various colleges and principals in the next week with information regarding bills that affect OSU’s education, research, and outreach activities.  If there is a particular bill that is of interest or concern to you, don’t hesitate to let us know.

Most higher education-related bills will likely fall under the jurisdiction of the following legislative committees and subcommittees:

Joint Ways & Means Committee

Co-chaired by Sen. Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin) and Rep. Nancy Nathanson (D-Eugene), this committee is responsible for appropriating funds. Its Subcommittee on Capital Construction will determine how the state’s debt capacity will be used to finance long-term construction projects.  The Subcommittee on Education will allocate operating funds across the education continuum from early childhood to post-graduate and career education.  With significant turnover in the House since the 2015 session, House membership and leadership in the Ways & Means process has also changed.

Ways & Means Capital Construction Subcommittee

  • Sen. Fred Girod (R-Stayton), Co-Chair
  • Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem)
  • Sen. Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin)
  • Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene), Co-Chair*
  • Rep. John Huffman (R-The Dalles)
  • Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland)
  • Rep. Greg Smith (R-Heppner)
  • Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland)*

*Indicates change from previous legislative session.

Ways & Means Education Subcommittee

  • Sen. Rod Monroe (D-Portland), Co-Chair
  • Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River)
  • Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay)
  • Rep. Barbara Smith Warner (D-Portland), Co-Chair*
  • Rep. Diego Hernandez (D-Portland)*
  • Rep. John Lively (D-Eugene)*
  • Rep. Julie Parrish (R-Tualatin/West Linn)*
  • Rep. Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver)*

*Indicates change from previous legislative session.

The Senate Education and House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committees will consider education policy issues.  While the Senate committee membership has remained fairly static, turnover in the House has resulted in significant changes, including the chair.

Senate Education Committee

  • Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay), Chair
  • Sen. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis/Albany)
  • Sen. Mark Hass (D-Beaverton)
  • Sen. Dennis Linthicum (R-Klamath Falls), Vice Chair*
  • Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg)

*Indicates change from previous legislative session.

House Education and Workforce Development Committee

  • Rep. Jeff Reardon (D-Happy Valley), Chair
  • Rep. Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver), Vice-Chair
  • Rep.Teresa Alonso Leon (D-Woodburn)*
  • Rep. Dallas Heard (R-Roseburg)*
  • Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Clackamas)*
  • Rep. Mark Johnson (R-Hood River)
  • Rep. Brian Clem (D-Salem)*
  • Rep. Werner Reschke (R-Klamath Falls)*
  • Rep. Janeen Sollman (D-Hillsboro)*

*Indicates change from previous legislative session.

Rep. Reardon is new to chair a committee, though he served on the committee last session along with Reps. Whisnant and Johnson.  Reps. Alonso Leon, Bynum, Reschke, and Sollman are serving in their first terms.


Next Steps in the Budget Process

On Thursday, January 18th, the Ways & Means co-chairs will issue a budget that will reflect a number of changes from the budget Governor Brown proposed in early December.  For one, the co-chairs’ budget will not include new revenues from tax increases since the 3/5 majority required to pass new taxes is not a given.  As a result, state budgets will need to internalize the expected $1.7 billion state revenue short fall.

In addition, the co-chairs’ proposal may hold state agencies at their “continuing service levels” (CSL) – the amount of funding needed to provide the same level of service during the 2017-19 biennium as was provided during the current biennium.  Under this approach, any increases over CSL that the Governor may have created in her budget could be eliminated in addition while also reflecting the statewide shortfall.  Based on comments from Ways & Means Co-Chair Sen. Richard Devlin in a recent report in The Oregonian, it’s possible higher education could see some increases, but certainly not the $100 million sought by the students, faculty and presidents of the seven public universities.


OSU’s Legislative Priorities

OSU’s Board of Trustees will consider the university’s legislative priorities for the 2017 session at its meeting on January 20th. You can find a summary here.


For more information

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If you have questions or thoughts regarding any of the information presented here, contact Jock Mills at

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