Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a legislative bill last week, Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5460, that reinforces and tightens spending policies, including hiring, personal services contracts, equipment purchases, out-of-state travel and wage increases.
 
The bill affects all state agencies, including higher education. WSU administrators are working with other higher education institutions and the state Office of Financial Management to determine exact implications. However, here is a brief summary of the items that affect WSU.
 
No salary or wage increases can be granted to individuals in exempt positions for the next 12 months, until Feb. 18, 2010.
 
Effective now through June 30, 2009, all agencies of the executive branch – including higher education institutions, boards and commissions, and statewide elected officials – are prohibited from:
 
  • filling new or vacant positions and creating new positions
  • entering into new personal services agreements or contracts or contract amendments that increase costs
  • purchasing equipment costing more than $5,000
  • authorizing out-of-state travel or training
 
Most of the implications in this bill have been in place at WSU since last April, when President Elson S. Floyd called for a slowdown on hiring and travel, allowing the university to get a head start on the process. 
 
More details
 
Joan King, executive director of planning and budget, provides the following initial interpretation of what the bill will mean:
 

Over the next 12 months, until Feb. 18, 2010, there will be no salary or wage increases for faculty or AP positions. The legislation appears to apply to all fund types and does not provide a process to seek exemptions to this law. However, it likely will not apply to authorized and approved promotions. This section does not apply to civil service or bargaining unit employees. We are seeking clarification to the application of this requirement to nonstate funds.

Effective only from now until July 1, 2009:

  • There will be no creation of new positions or filling of vacant positions on state funds except for those directly involved in the delivery of academic programs. This regulation appears to apply to all employee types.
  • No personal services contracts on state funds will be allowed.
  • Equipment purchases in excess of $5,000 on state funds will not be allowed.
  • Out-of-state travel or training on state funds will not be allowed.
Exceptions
 
Exception requests to the policies above must be forwarded to the director of the OFM, who will bundle requests for legislative review every 30 days.
 
The Legislature will have a five-day review period before the request takes effect.In the rare case that an exception request is essential, the WSU Budget Office will facilitate the request with OFM.
 
Meanwhile, WSU will continue its current freeze policies and use of the online approval system. The new requirements added by this legislation will be integrated into the existing freeze policies.
 
Until details are known
 
King offered the following general guidance until additional details are known:
 
  • All requests relating to employee positions should continue to be made via the online freeze system.In the rare case that an exemption for a position on state funds must be made, the WSU Budget Office will route the request from the WSU online system to OFM and ultimately Legislature for approval.The legislation suggests that 35 days will be required for legislative review and approval.
  • Current searches under way are to be held in abeyance and reviewed under the new requirements.
  • All requests relating to out-of-state travel should continue to be made via the online system. In the rare case that an exemption for out-of-state travel on state funds must be made, the WSU Budget Office will route the request from the WSU online system to OFM and ultimately Legislature for approval. As noted above, the legislation suggests that 35 days will be required for legislative review and approval.
  • WSU Purchasing Services will monitor the new restrictions regarding the use of state funds for personal services contracts or for equipment purchases in excess of $5,000.WSU Purchasing Services will route any exception request to the Budget Office for review. In the rare case that the exception is merited, the Budget Office will coordinate the request with OFM and ultimately Legislature for approval, with the 35-day caveat for legislative review and approval.
Related:
  • Release from OFM on Implementing Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5460
  • WSU Today — Technology vs. travel: Educators utilize new means of communication, see