Legislative Session Week 7 update: Co-chair’s budget released

Week seven of the Oregon legislative session ended with some important budget news. The co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Ways & Means released their recommended budget for the 2019-2021 biennium. This budget, based on all current revenues projected to come into state coffers and the economic forecast, had some good news and bad news for public higher education.

The good news:

Overall operating funding for public universities increased by $40.5 million from the base version of the Governor’s Recommended Budget, which had kept funding completely flat for universities. Additionally, the co-chairs directed the Subcommittee on Education to review appropriate funding levels for the Sports Lottery program and all Public University State Programs. Sports Lottery was zero-ed out in the Governor’s budget. The UO receives about $1 million each biennium from that program to fund scholarships for student athletes and graduate students.

The UO’s State Programs include the Labor Education Research Center, the law school’s Clinical Legal Education program, the Dispute Resolution program, and the TallWood Design Institute. Additionally, there are State Programs that all universities benefit from, including the Engineering & Technology Sustaining Fund, which funds research, innovation, and workforce development. The UO received $1,134,500 in FY19 from this program, which was eliminated in the Governor’s base budget. As the Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact gets up and running and the UO continues to advance its research portfolio, we expect to continue to receive more funding from the ETSF, which is distributed through a formula.

The bad news:

Despite a $40.5 million increase, this funding is not nearly enough to protect students from too-high tuition increases and cuts to the University’s workforce, programs, and services. Oregon’s seven public universities need a collective $120 million increase in operating funds (which would bring the total to $857 million—still below pre-recession funding levels) in order to keep tuition increases for resident undergraduate students to less than 5%. Because of the way the state’s funding formula is set up, the UO would receive an increase of just about $200,000 in operating funds at the co-chair’s budget.

Don’t forget that the Joint Committee on Ways & Means is taking their show on the road (literally) and traveling to Coos Bay, Pendleton, Redmond, and Portland over the next three weekends to hear directly from the public about the budget. If you can attend one of these hearings to testify in support of higher education funding or hold signs supporting universities and colleges, click here for more information.

In other news:

Aside from budget news, the Capitol was busy this week. Wednesday was a solemn day with the state funeral for Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, who passed away of brain cancer last week. We are grateful to Secretary Richardson for his decades of service to the people of Oregon.

The Legislature continues to debate important public policy that would impact the UO, including:

  • Accelerated credit (SB 800)
  • Campus safety
  • Regulation of athlete agents (SB 686)
  • Regional Accelerator Innovation Networks and a state matching fund for federal research grants universities’ apply for (SB 418 & HB 5524)
  • Common Applications (SB 624)
  • Hazing policies at universities (HB 2519)
  • Funding for veteran’s services on college campuses (SB 35)
  • And more!