Advocacy Brief – April 7, 2017

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House Passes Budget

This week, the House of Representatives passed the draft state budget, totaling more than $27 billion.  While there has been a lot of horse trading, there were ultimately no additional changes for community colleges or the rest of higher education.  Our core funding remains at a 6.58% reduction, which is still an improvement from the original proposed cuts of more than 9%.

As legislators put the finishing touches on the budget, there are some big issues at play that could have a significant effect on the state’s bottom line.  In particular, the House version of the budget calls for fully funding the K-12 formula, which would trigger spending on early childhood education.  Additionally, among a few other controversial items, there is uncertainty on the timing and the final amount of a tobacco lawsuit settlement and how this one-time revenue source would impact ongoing budget priorities.  All told, there is still about $100 million worth of these unanswered questions.

With Tuesday’s final House vote on the budget, the process now heads to the Senate, where that chamber’s budget leaders will make changes to the House version.  We expect fairly quick action over the next few weeks, as the legislature works to finalize the state budget by early May.

Higher Ed Mission Review Bill Stalls

Last week, we reported that the House passed HB 758, a bill that would create a new process in which colleges and universities could offer programs that are outside of their state-mandated mission.  This week, the Senate version of the same bill, SB 328, hit a road block.

The Senate opened floor debate on SB 328, but it quickly met resistance from a few Senators.  As such, the bill was “laid over” or tabled for discussion at a later time.  It is unclear when it may be brought back up for a vote.

The conventional wisdom is that this opposition to SB 328 is not about higher education or about the issues in the bill itself.  Instead, there are other unrelated conflicts embroiling the Senate right now, including a utility infrastructure bill and modifications to the state’s Human Rights Act, which are creating challenging political headwinds for our bill.

Until some of these issues are resolved, it is unclear when the Senate may act on the mission review bill.

Performance Funding Bill

MCCA and COPHE, our university counterpart, joined in opposition to HB 927, which would make changes to the performance funding model.  If passed, this bill would replace some of the existing performance measures and replace it with a second job placement metric.  Additionally, it would change the funding allocation for each of the performance measures.  No action was taken on the bill at this time.