House’s proposed operating budget friendlier

House Appropriations Committee chair Helen Sommers released her version of the operating budget on Wednesday, April 6. The House budget is much friendlier to higher education and Washington State University than the Senate budget.

The House proposal would provide WSU with $19 million more funding than the Senate. It is also better than the budgets proposed by either Governor Locke or Governor Gregoire.

Operating Budget

The House budget has no budget cuts.  The Senate budget cuts WSU’s base budget by $2.1 million. 

The House budget has no tuition offsets. The Senate budget would cut state funds by $14.6 million to offset half of the additional tuition students will pay. The budgets from both Governor Locke and Governor Gregoire protected higher education from budget cuts. 

The House budget provides for salary increases averaging 3.2% in FY 2006 and 1.6% in FY 2007 for WSU employees. The price tag is $15.8 million.

The increase rates for FY 2007 vary for employees covered by bargaining agreements. These increases are at the same levels as proposed by both governors and the Senate.

Additional health benefit funding of $11.2 million is provided to cover changes in health benefit costs.

The House budget includes $1.5 million of the $2 million needed for the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program to backfill the elimination of support from Oregon State.  The Senate budget provided $2 million, but then cut it by half of the tuition that new DVM students pay. 

The House budget provides $12.7 million for new enrollment, and the funding per FTE is better than in the Senate budget.

WSU Pullman and WSU Spokane would receive 256 additional undergraduate students per year funded at $6,300 each and 44 additional graduate FTE at $15,000 each. WSU Tri-Cities would receive 25 lower division enrollments for FY 07 funded at $6,303 each. WSU Vancouver would receive 150 additional upper division students per year at $10,000 a piece and 200 lower division students in FY 07 at $6,303 each. This is much better than the Senate base funding of $5,500 per student, an amount that was then offset by cuts of half the tuition that new students would pay.

The new enrollments and DVM funding are tied to revenue from a reinstated estate tax.

WSU-Vancouver is also provided $350,000 to assist the transition from a branch campus serving upper-division students, to a four-year campus serving freshmen, sophomores, and upper-division students. The Senate budget had provided $500,000 for this purpose.

No high-demand enrollment would be funded for four-year institutions in the House or Senate budgets.  

No research funding is provided in the House budget. The Senate budget provides $400,000 for research on controlling ghost shrimp in Willapa Bay. 

Annual tuition increases of 7% would be authorized for resident undergraduate students. All the tuition would remain at the institution to be used for programs. This is far better than the Senate proposal that would have offset half of the tuition increase with state budget cuts.

Financial aid programs would receive additional funding through the Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The budget notes improved per-student funding and requires demonstrable progress toward achieving the following six-year programmatic goals:
*  Improve time to degree.
*  Preserve access to low-income students.
*  Improve freshman retention rates.
*  Improve number of ranked programs.
*  Improve ranking of federal research grants funded.
*  Improve job placement or graduate school acceptance

House capital budget

On Monday, April 3, the chair of the House Capital Budget Committee, Hans Dunshee, released his recommendations for the state capital budget.  Here is a brief analysis.

Funding is not provided in the House budget for the Biotechnology Life Sciences building on the Pullman campus.  This is a major disappointment.  This building is essential to state-wide research efforts. Governors Gregoire and Locke each provided $45 million of the $57.1 needed to construct this high priority building. No funding was provided in the Senate budget.

Also not funded is the wastewater reclamation project. This project had been partially funded in the Gregoire budget, but not in the Senate budget.

Funded in the House budget is $13.1 million for the Tri-Cities Bioproducts building.  This building is a joint project with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), who will provide additional funding. The building was also included in the Gregoire and Senate budgets.

The House budget provides funding of $31.6 million for construction costs of the Spokane Riverpoint Nursing Center, as did the Senate.  Curiously, the House would fund the project through EWU rather than through WSU.

Preservation of existing assets and minor works are funded in the W&M budget, with $30.5 million for buildings, $7 million for infrastructure, $8 million for facilities improvements, $7 million for equipment, and $2 million for safety improvements. These funds are crucial to the operation of the institution.

The House budget funds the WSU Vancouver Student Services Building at 10.6 million. Even though this building was low on the combined six baccalaureate institutions’ list, it was also included in the Senate budget. 

The House committee chair’s budget also includes $2.8 million for the Center for Precision Agriculture.  Neither the university nor the six institutions had advanced this project.

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