Washington State University and the University of Washington are praising salary increases and protection from cuts in Gov. Gary Locke’s 2005-2007 budget proposal, but they say his plan falls far short of addressing issues critical to the future of higher education in the state.

“Notably, the governor’s budget included no budget reductions for higher education,” said Karl Boehmke, WSU executive budget director. And this is in the face of a projected $1.8 billion state deficit.

In addition, he said, salary increases averaging 3.2 percent in 2006 and 1.6 percent (one-time) in 2007 and costing $14.9 million are provided for most higher education employees. No salary increase funding is provided for classified staff employees who are represented in collective bargaining but who had not approved a contract on Oct. 1. WSU police are included for increases of 3.2 percent in 2006 and 2.9 percent in 2007.

The universities acknowledged the governor’s recognition of the need for state support of their research mission, but said the amount provided is far too little. For example, said Larry Ganders, assistant to the WSU president, in his legislative update about the budget, Locke recommended $1.5 million in research funds for WSU compared to the $7.1 million requested.

“This budget proposal leaves some very important issues unresolved at a time when higher education institutions in Washington, particularly the research universities, are unable to respond to many of the demands that are being made of them,” Boehmke said.

Another major disappointment, besides research funding, was the lack of increase in per-student core funding and in funding for growth in enrollments. While WSU requested nearly $51 million for the 2005-2007 biennium in core funding and $15 million for enrollment growth, Locke proposed no per-student funding increases.

“The existing four-year institutions cannot now and will not in the future be able to provide enough spaces for students coming out of our state’s high schools and community colleges without more state-funded enrollments,” said a joint statement issued by WSU and UW in response to Locke’s proposed budget.

Locke did propose $26 million for new enrollments in “high demand” areas like engineering and nursing. WSU would compete with other institutions in the state for the funds.

The governor also included the full $2 million requested by WSU for the veterinary medicine program, to offset funds withdrawn by Oregon State University, which now has its own vet school. This will provide more access for resident Washington students to the WSU program that produces veterinarians, Ganders noted.

On another front, he said, “It did not appear that the governor gave a high priority to universities in the capital construction budget.” For example, the governor proposed funding $45 million of the $57.1 million needed to construct the Biotechnology LIfe Sciences Building at WSU Pullman. Not funded at all are the WSU Pullman wastewater reclamation project, the WSU Tri-Cities Bioproducts Building (a joint venture with Battelle’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratories), and the WSU Spokane Riverpoint Nursing Center.

“If the governor’s capital budget is adopted,” Ganders said, “those projects could face years of delay.” 

In their joint statement, WSU and UW said, “We will work with the new governor and the Legislature to encourage them to find additional capital funding that will allow the state to finance more projects.” 

For Ganders’ complete update, click the following link to go to http://www.olympia.wsu.edu/News/2005_News_Three.stm

For a comprehensive summary of the WSU budget requests, click on the following link to go to WSU budget briefing papers at http://www.olympia.wsu.edu/Briefing/Briefing2005.stm.
For a printer-friendly Microsoft Word version,  click on the following link to go to http://www.olympia.wsu.edu/News/2005_News_3.doc

Additional related articles can be found at:

* Washington State’s Office of Financial Management at   http://www.ofm.wa.gov/budget05/default.htm

*  The Seattle Times at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002122440_locke17m.html

* The Seattle PI at http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/204185_budget17.html