Gov. Christine Gregoire announced her proposed biennial budget on March 21, providing expanded support for Washington State University and the state’s higher education system. Major items that received funding included:

* 830 new full-time students for the Washington State University system (including 400 for WSU Vancouver)
* 3.2 percent salary increases for most employees starting July 2005, and a 1.6 percent one-time increase starting July 2006
* $45 million for the Biotechnology/Life Sciences building in Pullman and $13.1 million for the Bioproducts Building in the Tri-Cities
* $2.7 million in seed money for wastewater treatment planning in Pullman
* no major reductions in higher education funding

 “We are very pleased with the strong support of higher education the governor has shown through this budget,” said WSU President V. Lane Rawlins. “While there are always additional initiatives that we would like to see funded, this budget is a positive proposal which would allow us to move forward with many of our key priorities.”


If Gregoire’s proposed budget were adopted by the Legislature, Rawlins said, it would help WSU begin to address the growing disparity between its faculty salaries and those at peer institutions. (See related article in March 18 issue of WSU Today.) However, he quickly added, “We will still be looking at reallocating resources (through the internal budgeting process) to make sure that we are achieving our priorities. The governor’s budget would give us some flexibility, but even if we received it, I’m hoping we could provide more money for salary increases. Improving salaries is critically important and we want to make sure that we are achieving that goal, as well as our other priorities.”


To help offset the current $1.5 billion state shortfall and proposed new spending, Gregoire suggests increasing the cigarette tax by 20 cents a pack, bringing back a revised form of the estate tax, and reducing other state services, benefits and reserve funds. (For details, go to http://www.ofm.wa.gov/budget/highlights.)


Unlike Gov. Gary Locke’s proposed budget (announced in December) that provided no money for enrollment increases, Gregoire kicked in $7.2 million for new enrollments at four WSU campuses — 150 additional slots at the Pullman campus per year; 20 per year at WSU Spokane and 45 per year at WSU Tri-Cities. At WSU Vancouver, the budget would provide funding for 200 students to be admitted as the first freshman class in 2006 and money for 100 new students per year to continue to build capacity to accept community college transfers at that campus. The WSU Vancouver campus also would receive $500,000 to assist the transition from a campus serving upper-division students to one that also serves freshmen and sophomores.

Statewide, the governor is proposing adding$90 million higher education to increase enrollment by 6,600 students at all state universities and colleges.


Gregoire’s proposal would put an additional $3.4 million into a pool administered by the Higher Education Coordinating Board for enrollments in high-demand fields. That money would pay for an additional 100 students per year. WSU will apply for a portion of that pool.


The budget would authorize annual tuition increases of 5 percent; that money could be used to support quality improvements, including lower class sizes and faculty retention.


The governor’s budget calls for a 3.2 percent pay increase for most employees starting July 1, 2005, and a 1.6 percent one-time increase affective July 1, 2006. State employees have not received a general salary increase in the past four years.


In the capital budget, WSU’s top new building priority, the Biotechnology Life Sciences building in Pullman, would receive $45 million of the $57.1 million needed for construction. The budget also provides $13.1 million for the Tri-Cities Bioproducts building, a joint project with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and $2.7 million to begin construction of a wastewater reclamation project in Pullman.


Funding for minor capital projects, including infrastructure, renovations, equipment, high-tech networking and safety improvements is also included.
The governor’s budget does not include funding for a new nursing building for the WSU Spokane Riverpoint campus.


“We will continue to work toward full funding of the Biotechnology Life Sciences building and toward funding of the nursing building in Spokane. Both are vital projects and we think we can make strong cases for them,” Rawlins said.

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Links to regional newspapers throughout the state, which monitor the Legislature and the state budgeting process, can be found in the left-hand navigation column of WSU Today online,  http://www.wsutoday.wsu.edu/regional-world.html.