Olympia and WSU

Fiscally speaking, these are the darkest days in more than two decades, as the Legislature faces a $2.5 billion budget deficit that may expand. Yet, there are those who talk of renovation and restoration of state government and building for the next generation.

Washington State University and the University of Washington have tried to point to the future, urging legislators to protect core operating budget programs and make prudent investments to secure a bright future for us all.

Mike Skinner, director of the WSU Center for Reproductive Biology, shared the fruits from university faculty with economic development and appropriations committees earlier in the session. He let them taste a product made from WSU’s Rainier Cherries, showed them a t-shirt that could be made from agricultural waste, showed a new product for early breast cancer detection and a new fertility drug, and passed around an industrial surge protector manufactured by Schweizer Engineering Laboratories.

President V. Lane Rawlins, disappointed that he has been forced to turn away qualified students for what may be the first time in history, is urging legislators to adequately fund core programs.

The deadline for most bills to leave their committees was March 10. (Status of WSU-related bills is listed at www.olympia.wsu.edu.)

The House of Representatives is expected to release a budget proposal, perhaps before March 26, “Higher Education Day.”

Gov. Gary Locke’s proposed budget cuts $31.4 million or 8 percent out of WSU’s funding.

The House is trying to secure money to maintain students in the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine, as Oregon State University withdraws its funding to build its own vet college.

Some senators say they are trying to help higher education but expect some efficiencies in return. An example is Second Substitute Senate Bill 5135, which imposes a tuition surcharge on students who take too many classes before completing their degree. There’s also Substitute Senate Bill 5909, which puts performance audits of state agencies in place. Both are expected to pass the Senate.

A proposal promoting the use of capital funding bonds for colleges and universities is also gaining support. However, legislators say K – 12 construction must be included, and 4-year universities must prioritize projects against community college projects.

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