Around one hundred UW students travelled to the state capitol in Olympia to lobby congress on behalf of several issues April 8. The annual Huskies on the Hill event had students from all three UW campuses partake in lobbying Washington State’s congress, speaking with lawmakers, representatives and the office of the governor.
In previous years, Huskies on the Hill has taken place in late-January or early-to-middle February. However, the first attempt on Feb. 11 for Huskies on the Hill 2019 was thwarted by the snow storms which closed down the three UW campuses and stalled Western Washington. For the second time, however, students visited Olympia unhindered by the rainy weather.
This year, huskies primarily lobbied for higher education by advocating for the approval of House Bill 2158, which would fully fund the Washington College Grant Program by 2021. This was Washington State Governor Jay Inslee’s focus when he visited UWT this past January. Associated Students of UW Tacoma Legislative Liaison Adán Espino Jr. explained the importance of passing this bill through congress.
“One big reason … is that we [UW Tacoma] get funding for two new engineering degree programs in that bill,” Espino said. “One of the big things is that for the State Need Grant, it does a bunch of stuff and then some … It creates a dedicated higher education funding source.”
HB 2158 covers a wide range of issues concerning higher education and is set to better train Washington State students for Washington State jobs through the use of higher education funding and programs. Within the 89 page bill, UW Tacoma would specifically receive roughly $1.8 million by 2021 to establish programs in civil and mechanical engineering — something Chancellor Mark Pagano stated that he hoped he would be able to secure funding back in his February town hall meeting.
“I want to secure the funding for the new engineering programs,” Pagano stated during the town hall. “That is a heavy lift, but we are working on it.”
Additionally, HB 2158 would ensure that all students have access to some sort of grant awarded to them, regardless of median family income. Further, students making only 70 percent of the median family income would be eligible to receive up to 100 percent of the maximum grant.
In fully funding the Washington College Grant Program, which as of right now is known as the Washington State Need Grant, a business and operation surcharge would be added to advanced computing businesses as well as select businesses. Essentially, if an advanced computing business were to generate income between $25–$100 million dollars from services and other activities, they would see an increase of 33.33 percent on their business and operating tax, which currently sits at 1.5 percent. For businesses that make over $100 million in the same category, the surcharge would be 66.66 percent. Certain, select businesses would only see an increase of 20 percent.
“I think having the students there and saying ‘Hey, HB 2158 is a priority,’ and not just having me and other lobbyists call in … goes a long way and the students will make an impact,” Espino said.
If you are interested in reading the bill summary, the full bill or watch the open public forum on HB 2158, go to app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=2158&Year=2019&Initiative=False.