House passes regulatory relief for colleges and universities

State Rep. Larry Springer’s work on regulatory relief for Washington businesses and local governments could soon pay off for Washington’s cash-strapped colleges and universities.

The House voted unanimously today for a package of regulatory relief for higher education that is expected to save public colleges and universities in Washington more than a million dollars.

“A million dollars may not seem like much in the scale of things, but in times like these every dollar we divert from administrative costs to direct services for students makes a difference,” said Springer.

The reforms in Springer’s bill:

  • Allow streamlined competitive-bidding for purchases of $100,000 or less that take less time and paperwork to complete.  A similar threshold would apply to personal-service contracts.
  • Let colleges lock in bargain rates by paying in advance for long-term maintenance contracts.
  • Cut paperwork costs by facilitating direct deposit of salaries and wages and allowing alternative methods of payments such as payroll cards.
  • Provide more flexibility in making and paying for travel, so long as the methods used work “in the most cost-effective and efficient manner possible.”
  • Give colleges and universities more flexibility in employee compensation.

The measure does add one requirement:  In the year 2017, colleges must report on how much they have saved through these reforms and how the savings were used to promote student academic success.

Representatives for colleges and universities were unanimous in supporting Springer’s reforms at public hearings on his bill, House Bill 2585.

“They help us save a little bit of money and gain a lot of efficiency at a time when our smaller staffs are stretched as thin as they’ve ever been,” said Chris Mulick on behalf of Washington State University. “And moreover, they’re just good government”

The ideas in Springer’s bill came largely from representatives of institutions of higher education.

Springer is no stranger to curbing state mandates that impose burdens without generating real benefits to the state. He used the same approach in previous sessions to advocate for regulatory relief for Washington’s businesses and local governments.  Last year, for example, he successfully championed the fiscal relief for cities and counties law (HB 1478).

“One of the biggest mistakes state regulators often make is to confuse good management with micro-management,” said Springer.  “You’d be amazed how often I hear businesses explain how we could achieve the same results with less paperwork or fewer hoops to jump through.”

Springer is the Deputy Majority Leader for Jobs and Economic Development in the House of Representatives.