PULLMAN, Wash. – The 2011-13 biennial state House budget proposal calls for a continued decline in funding for Washington State University, bringing it back to 1989-91 levels.

“While we recognize the difficulties facing budget writers, we are disappointed both at the level of the reduction and the lack of institutional flexibility in the House budget,” said President Elson S. Floyd. “This budget would make it extremely difficult for us to maintain access for Washington students at a time when higher education is instrumental in rebuilding our economy.”

In the 1989-91 biennium, funding for higher education represented 8.5 percent of the state’s general fund budget. Under the House proposal, higher education funding would represent 3.5 percent of the state general fund budget, even though Washington’s higher education institutions educate 32,000 more students than they did in the 1989-91 biennium.
The budget would impose a $110 million funding cut for the biennium for WSU, and it calls for a 13 percent increase in tuition for all students in each of the two years of the biennium.
The cut to WSU is larger than that called for in the budget that Gov. Chris Gregoire released in December. Her budget included an 11 percent tuition increase for each of the two years for all students.
“The strength of a university’s faculty determines the quality and outcomes of both the research and educational processes,” said Warwick Bayly, provost and executive vice president. “Continued funding cuts undermine our efforts to attract and maintain outstanding faculty members.
“At a time when WSU’s best faculty are already being poached by universities in other states and nations because of restrictions imposed over the last two years, this budget will make it harder than ever to keep our best and brightest faculty,” he said.
WSU officials studied the budget language and discussed the provisions with their colleagues at other four-year institutions across the state Monday and Tuesday.
Budget officials are seeking to determine the impact of one-time budget reductions and mandatory reserves called for in the proposal that, it appears, would sharply restrict the university’s flexibility in decision making.
The news was slightly better for WSU in the House’s capital budget proposal. It includes 50 percent funding ($35 million) for the university’s top capital priority, the Biomedical Education building at WSU Spokane. That project did not receive any funding in the governor’s budget proposal.
The House proposal also would fund just under 50 percent of the design work ($2.5 million) for the Clean Tech building on the Pullman campus. It would increase minor capital preservation funding to $24.5 million university-wide, a slight increase on the funding level called for by the governor.
Overall, in the House proposal, WSU’s capital budget is $78.84 million, about $6 million larger than the WSU capital budget proposed by the governor. But missing from this budget is any funding for minor capital improvements or omnibus equipment.
The Senate is expected to release its budget next week. The two houses will then seek to agree on a budget to send to the governor by the scheduled April 24 adjournment date.