Office of Planning and Budgeting

On Tuesday, June 18, the Washington State Economic & Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC) released its quarterly update of General Fund-State (GFS) revenues. Compared with the March forecast, expected GFS revenues are up $110 million for the current biennium (2011-13) and $121 million for the next biennium (2013-15), meaning legislators have an additional $231 million to factor into their budget negotiations.

While these changes are positive, they represent very minor adjustments. Under the updated forecast, the state is expected to take in $30.65 billion in the current biennium and $32.66 billion in the next, thus the increases represent adjustments of less than 0.5 percent each.

Most of the positive variance came from increases in forecasted housing construction, taxable real estate activity, and Revenue Act taxes. Real estate excise taxes came in $34 million (34 percent) higher than forecasted and Revenue Act taxes came in $54 million (2 percent) higher—exceeding the January 2008 pre-recession peak. Lower than expected inflation and employment worked against these gains, but weren’t enough to negate them.  Although Washington employment has been slowly increasing in most sectors (especially construction), aerospace and government employment are in decline.

It is important to note that much uncertainty surrounds the council’s 2013-15 baseline forecast due to the Federal sequester, Europe’s recession, and China’s slowing economic growth. The ERFC gives its baseline a 50 percent probability and its optimistic and pessimistic alternative forecasts 20 percent and 30 percent respectively. The optimistic forecast is $2.5 billion above the baseline and the pessimistic forecast is $2.5 billion below.

In addition, it should be noted that, like the March forecast, the June update did not assume any revenue from taxable marijuana sales as the Federal Government’s response to Initiative 502 is still unclear.

Some state lawmakers are optimistic that the new forecast will expedite their budget negotiations; however, the two sides’ have a ways to go before the end of the fiscal year on June 30th (12 days from now). “We’ll get closer as a result of this,” said Representative Ross Hunter during a press conference Tuesday morning.

The 105-day state legislative session officially ended this Sunday, April 28th. Unfortunately, the state legislature was unable to reach a compromise on the budget by the end of the session. A significant cause of the impasse is the Washington State Supreme Court ruling that requires the legislature to fully fund K-12 education.  The House budget proposal repeals eleven tax exemptions and extends several other taxes, diverting $1.17 billion into education, while the Senate version cuts several social programs to fund education with $1 billion. Governor Inslee has called a special session, to begin May 13th, in order to pass a compromise budget and to pass legislation on other issues such as universal background checks for gun purchases, the state DREAM act, tougher DUI laws, and the Reproductive Parity Act. When special session begins, all bills that have passed out of the house of origin will be reintroduced in that house and placed on third reading.  Budget writers will stay in Olympia to try to work on a compromise in the next two weeks. As always, we will post any updates on their progress to this blog. Be sure to monitor the UW State Relations blog for updates as well.

Click here to watch Governor Inslee announce the special session. To read more about the proposed budgets and other legislation, check out this article.

House Ways & Means Chair Ross Hunter released the House budget proposal today. Please see the OPB Brief for a complete analysis. Table 1 shows the total funding the UW would receive under the House chair budget, divided into three standard categories: the carry forward level, the maintenance level and the performance level.

The House assumes that the UW will increase undergraduate resident tuition by 5 percent each year, thus making more revenue available. However, the House Chair budget requires that $2 million go toward the College of Engineering, $12 million be used to create a Clean Energy Institute, and a total of $16.5 million of the appropriation be used to support enrollments in Computer Science and Engineering.

As shown in the table below, once recognized additional operational needs are met and once dedicated funds are removed from the equation, the UW is left with almost $10 million less in net new state funding in 2013-15 compared to the previous biennium under the House budget.  Once the potential additional tuition revenue is taken into account, however, the UW fares better under the House budget, even with its spending requirements.  Moreover, the Senate relies on a draconian 20 percent surcharge on international student tuition to generate this additional funding amount.  As mentioned in our previous brief, given that the majority of international students in Washington are enrolled at the UW, this amounts to a tax on UW students. It is expected that the surcharge will lead to a decline in international student enrollments, which could lead to an overall reduction of revenue for the UW.

We are still reviewing the potential impacts of this budget proposal and will provide revisions to the brief as more information becomes available. Once the House chair budget passes the floor (which is expected later this week), leaders of the House and Senate will begin negotiations to reconcile the differences between their respective approaches. It is likely that the UW will not have a clear sense of its actual anticipated state funding level until the end of this month at the earliest.

Senate Ways & Means Chair Andy Hill released the Senate budget proposal today. Please see the OPB Brief for a complete analysis.

Tuition: The Senate Chair budget contains language allowing the Regents to set tuition and fees for all student categories other than resident undergraduates. The budget bill assumes no tuition increases for resident undergraduates; however, UW Regents retain the authority to set tuition rates under HB 1795. It is crucial to note that the budget states that these tuition provisions will be nullified if SB 5883 passes. SB 5883 would require a 3 percent decrease in resident undergraduate tuition for 2013-14.

Compensation: The budget deems the UW’s collective bargaining agreements (CBA) to be financially feasible and restores the 3 percent salary cut imposed on state agencies in the last biennium. We assume the budget lifts the current salary freeze for state employees as it makes no mention of extending it. In addition, the budget assumes savings by changing the definition of “full time” employee to align state employee healthcare eligibility with the federal standard set out in the Affordable Care Act. This is a significant change in policy, and we expect it to become a serious topic of public debate in the weeks to come.

Other policy changes affecting the UW include:

  1. Funding for the Joint Aerospace Initiative with WSU;
  2. Appropriations for a new Center on Ocean pH Balance;
  3. One-time, performance-based funding;
  4. Operation and maintenance funding for MolE and Dempsey Hall;
  5. Funding reductions related to administrative efficiencies;
  6. An international student surcharge; and
  7. A fund transfer from the UW Hospital Account.

The Senate chair budget proposal is one of a series of budgets released as part of the biennial budget process; the House is expected to release its budget proposal next week. It is likely that the UW will not have a clear sense of its actual anticipated state funding level until later this month.

On Thursday, Governor Inslee released his budget priorities for the 2013-15 biennium. OPB released a comprehensive brief on the plan, but below is a quick summary of the major points in the Governor’s budget.

Governor Inslee’s plan would fund all of higher education, including financial aid, with nearly $3 billion (8.4 percent of the total budget), of which the University of Washington would receive just over $232 million per year. This funding level represents about $3.6 million more per year than the UW would have received under Governor Gregoire’s “New Law” budget. Governor Inslee’s plan also:

  • Authorizes tuition increases of up to five percent per year for resident undergraduates at UW and WSU (three percent at other four-year universities). While the UW still has tuition setting authority, it must provide increased financial aid if it raises tuition above five percent.
  • Provides the UW with $6 million per FY to create a Clean Energy Institute with the purpose of researching energy storage and solar energy.
  • Appropriates$1 million per FY to the UW’s College of Engineering to support increased enrollments.
  • Funds the joint Aerospace Initiative and the Center on Ocean Acidification at levels consistent with Governor Gregoire’s budgets.
  • Gives additional funding to financial aid to keep pace with tuition increases and to fully fund the College Bound scholarship program.

Governor Inslee’s plan restores the 3 percent salary cut imposed on state agencies in the last biennium, but includes no mention of the current salary freeze for state employees, which is set to expire on June 30, 2013. We assume this means the freeze will be lifted, however the Governor’s plan does not provide explicit funding for wage increases.

Governor Inslee’s capital budget plan is identical to Governor Gregoire’s, and includes money for the UW’s top capital priorities such as minor capital repair, the UW Tower Chilled Water System Replacement, and Magnuson Health Sciences Center Roofing Replacement.

While Governor Inslee’s budget blueprint is an important step in the budget process, we expect the UW will not have a clear picture of its actual FY14 and FY15 funding levels for at least another month. We will post updates to this blog when the Senate and House release their budgets. Please also monitor the State Relations website for information.

The Governor’s budget office released the first set of biennial budgets today. The current Governor proposed a “current law” balanced budget, assuming no new revenue, and a budget with new revenue, appropriating $34.1 billion of Near General Fund State per year, for which all of higher education, including financial aid, would receive nearly $3 billion (or 8.7 percent). As a reminder, Governor Gregoire’s budget proposals are the first of many budgets to be released for the upcoming biennium. The earliest point that the UW will have a sense of its actual anticipated state funding level is late April 2013. In addition, we might see Governor-elect Inslee release his own budget, or a set of budget priorities, in January 2013.

Under Governor Gregoire’s balanced and new law budgets, each of the state’s six baccalaureate institutions would receive slight increases in funding when compared to carry-forward budgets levels, with no new tuition increases or state funding reductions. While the UW has another year of tuition setting authority under HB 1795, the Higher Education Opportunity Act, this budget does not provide any new financial aid funds to cover tuition increases.  Note that Education Legacy Trust funding, from which the UW normally received at least $8 million annually, was removed from all public baccalaureate institutions’ budgets and replaced with general fund appropriations.

The 2012 Legislature appropriated $209 million in state funds to the UW for FY13, thus, both of the Governor’s proposed budgets represent an increase in the UW’s state funding for FY14 and FY15. However, the budget bill devotes these increases to covering expenses associated with the UW’s collective bargaining agreements.  If any funds remain afterward, they will be available for any other purpose(s).

Please review our budget brief on the Governor’s operating budgets and capital budgets. As usual, let us know if you have any questions.

 

Check out Christy Gullion’s latest post about a possible to deal to avoid the federal fiscal cliff.

Washington’s Economic Revenue and Forecast Council (ERFC) released November’s revenue forecast today. Overall, revenue collections for the current biennium are holding steady, while collections anticipated for the next biennium are slightly lower than the previous forecast.

2011-13 (FY12 and FY13)

For the current biennium, collections are $8 million higher than the previous forecast, and though this increase is extremely slight, it signals
to agencies that additional, current year budget cuts are unlikely when the legislature reconvenes in January.

2013-15 (FY14 and FY15)

The upcoming session will be at least 105 days in length and result in a new biennial (two year) budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. The revenue forecast for the upcoming biennium was also updated today and as predicted, shows a modest decline but largely holds anticipated collections to the previously forecasted level. As required by law, ERFC releases optimistic and pessimistic alternative forecasts for the coming biennium. The alternative forecasts suggest that a variance of $3 billion in new revenue or in new cuts is possible. For the time being, the actual forecast for the upcoming biennium is $88 million lower than the September forecast. Slow growth is expected in both Washington State and the US. However, high downside risks including the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, federal fiscal cliff, and the resulting employment and consumer confidence declines present significant reasons to be skeptical about any significant revenue growth.

Governor Gregoire will release her biennial budget in December, but new Governor Jay Inslee may present an alternative budget in January, at
the same time the legislature begins its budget process. Stay tuned! We have a long way to go!

 

 

The Economic Revenue and Forecast Council (ERFC) released its September revenue forecast on the 19th. Believe it or not: Anticipated revenues for the current (2011-13) and upcoming (2013-15) biennia were slightly ahead of the previous forecast.

Although only eight months of the current biennium remain, revenues are running $29 million ahead of predicted levels due to better than anticipated employment numbers, construction activity, and real estate excise tax collections.

Projected revenues for the upcoming 2013-15 biennium (FY14 & FY15) were raised by $23 million; but, as the full forecast and press release note, the downside risks resulting from potentially stagnant employment gains, an extremely weak Washington export market, sovereign European debt crisis, and possible federal fiscal cliff threaten these modest gains.

While ERFC will refine the revenue forecast again in November and the Governor will use it as a basis for her budget, she and the Office of Financial Management (OFM) have already committed any possible additional revenue above current forecasted levels to K12. Revenue projections may have increased slightly with the release of this forecast, but required expenditures in the upcoming biennium will far outweigh potential revenues. OFM projects a $1 billion deficit out the gate.

 

Yesterday, Governor Gregoire’s budget office issued a lackluster four-year revenue and expenditure outlook for the state’s near general fund. The coming 2013-15 biennium (FY14 & FY15), for which the Governor will release a budget in December, comes up short on anticipated revenue and long on expenditures. Before accounting for required increases in K12, across-the-board salary increases, and minor increases to financial aid spending, the anticipated deficit for both years of the coming biennium is $1.7 billion. If the Legislature appropriates funds from the budget stabilization account, the biennial deficit shrinks to $956 million. The deficit was calculated based on the assumption that near general fund revenue will grow 2.2% in FY14 and 4.4% in FY15.

Expenditure assumptions include the backfill of an equivalent 3% salary reduction in each of the prior two fiscal years (FY12 & FY13). In other words, it is presumed that the Legislature will backfill the UW’s budget by approximately $12 million per year to replace the temporary salary-related reductions it imposed on the University during the prior biennium. However, without an infusion of revenue, the Legislature will not be able to fund required K12 policy enhancements, financial aid, or salary increases.

The outlook serves as a reminder that the state’s economy remains tenuous and even a minor replenishment of higher education spending is questionable.

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