Washington State University’s annual $262 million state budget allocation would be reduced by $31 million, or about 12 percent, as part of the 2009-2011 state budget recommendations issued today by Gov. Chris Gregoire.
 “WSU fully realizes that sacrifices must be made during these difficult financial times,” WSU President Elson Floyd said after being briefed on the governor’s budget. “The governor has repeatedly made a commitment to education and her proposed budget reflects this priority. WSU will continue to take the appropriate steps to manage within this fiscal environment.”
The governor’s December recommendations mark the first step in a legislative process to balance the state biennial operating budget that is not likely to be completed until late next spring.
The governor’s budget also presumes up to a 7 percent tuition increase in each of the two years of the biennium. That level of increase is consistent with the increases in recent years.
 
If that level of tuition is included in the final budget package, and if the WSU Board of Regents votes to enact that increase, the university would have additional income of more than $9 million in each of the two years to offset a portion of these state cuts. That would leave the actual reductions at 8.5 percent of the state budget. 
 
More state financial aid funding was proposed by the governor to keep pace with a 7 percent tuition increase.
The university has been anticipating operating budget reductions for the next biennium. Floyd ordered a slowdown on WSU hiring last spring and later froze all vacant positions. The university has also severely restricted travel and taken steps to reduce the number of courses offered to improve resource allocation.
President Floyd and Executive Vice President and Provost Warwick M. Bayly are co-chairs of a 15-member budget committee that is exploring options for how to further reduce the budget in light of the economic difficulties facing the state.

The budget committee has created a website http://budget-committee.wsu.edu/index.html to share information about the committee’s deliberations and to gather suggestions from the university community on possible budget savings.

Among the principles outlined by the committee following its first meeting last week were that the university would strive to protect student access without compromising quality, to make decisions in line with the university’s overall strategic priorities, to increase the institution’s efficiency and productivity and to protect current employees.
Also today, the governor unveiled a special capital construction package that is intended to quickly stimulate the state economy that has been reeling from recession.
Among the projects recommended by the governor for funding is WSU’s highest priority: the $38.6 million Applied Technology Classroom Building on the campus of WSU Vancouver.
 
WSU has requested that it be included in the governor’s state economic stimulus package, allowing consideration early in the legislative session. The governor said she will announce that package next month.
 
If that project is included, WSU will break ground on the project in March on the project that will produce high-demand engineering degrees and research for the semi-conductor industry.
The capital construction budget also proposes $7.4 million in design funds for WSU’s second highest priority, the Veterinary Medical Research Building in Pullman. The building would be on a pace to begin construction in 2011.
The governor provided in her budget an alternative financing mechanism for the $15.7 million Pullman Wastewater Facility. The proposal would allow WSU to bond against student building fees paid at the time of tuition to construct the plant.
 
However, the plan requires treated water to be used only for the domestic water requirements of the Pullman energy plant, chilled water facilities and irrigating general university grounds, excluding the new Palouse Ridge Golf Club. WSU has indicated that may be feasible.