PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University officials said they will continue their efforts to remind state legislators that funding for higher education is one of the most effective ways to strengthen the state’s sagging economy. WSU and the University of Washington bring into the state nearly $1 billion in research funding that support projects at the two higher education institutions.

WSU officials said Gov. Gary Locke’s budget released Tuesday is the beginning of the budget process for the next biennium. The governor’s budget is a starting place – a point at which state lawmakers can begin to prepare a budget that will serve the citizens of the state.

WSU President V. Lane Rawlins and Lee Huntsman, UW president, will continue meeting with lawmakers and citizens throughout Washington to discuss higher education needs.

Officials said the university will continue to focus on quality education for its students and appropriate funding for education. WSU also will focus on added support to maintain a world-class faculty and staff that the state of Washington deserves.

The governor’s proposed budget continues a shift in the costs of higher education to students through a tuition hike for resident undergraduates capped at 9 percent each year of the biennium, a proposal that the research universities said puts a growing burden on students.

Locke’s budget also calls for no general salary increases for state employees, including university faculty and staff. The budget does provide a special fund of $2.9 million for faculty and staff recruitment and retention. Employees will be required to pay an increased portion of their health benefit costs.

Two of WSU’s capital budget requests met governor approval: the Johnson Hall addition for plant biosciences and the Cleveland Hall addition for the WSU College of Education. The budget also provided design money for an interdisciplinary biotechnology/life science building. Pre-design money for a biomedical sciences facility, too, is part of the budget.

The only branch campus construction proposal receiving support in the governor’s budget was pre-design for a bioproducts and sciences building near WSU Tri-Cities that would be operated in cooperation with Battelle’s Pacific Northwest Laboratories.