House committee pushes out proposed operating budget

The state House Appropriations Committee released its proposed House operating budget on Tuesday, March 20.  The budget provides significant new funding for health care education, agricultural research, math and science education, and bio-products technology. The House budget addresses most of the priorities contained in the WSU budget request.  Overall this proposal is similar to the recommendations Gov. Chris Gregoire made in December, with the following differences:

* Unified Agricultural Initiative saw increased funding. The House provides $9.5 million compared to $3 million in the governor’s budget.
* State buy-down of tuition increases. The governor has proposed tuition increases of 7 percent per year for research universities. The House would limit the increases to 5 percent per year, and would provide state funding for the additional 2 percent.  Using state funds to buy-down future tuition increases is an important precedent, and is consistent with the Washington Learns proposal.  It provides needed funding for academic programs without overburdening students and their families.
* Increased enrollment for WSU Vancouver and WSU Tri-Cites. The House budget funds a total of 110 new freshmen in Tri-Cities and 400 new freshmen in Vancouver. The governor’s proposal funded 60 and 350 respectively. The House budget also provides $1.1 million to start-up a new electrical engineering program at WSU Vancouver.
* Reduced funding for purchasing, maintenance and utilities. The governor’s budget provides $300,000 to restore purchasing cuts and $1.5 million for maintenance and operations of new facilities in Vancouver, Pullman and Mt. Vernon. This funding is missing from the House budget. The expenses are unavoidable.

* No funding to expand the Small Business Development Center. No funding is provided by the House for the SBDC. The governor’s budget provides $757,000 to expand small business counseling services.
Budget Summary

Following is summary and comparison of other budget items.

* Salary increases and benefits, (governor and House $32,533,000)

Salary increases averaging 3.2% on September 1, 2007, and 2.0% on September 1, 2008, are provided for most employees.

* More doctors and nurses for Spokane and the Inland Northwest (governor and House $9,551,000)

The proposed budgets of both the House and the Governor would invest in health education at the WSU Spokane Riverpoint campus.  These programs would increase the supply of doctors, dentists and nurses for the state, especially for Eastern Washington.

Twenty additional doctors will be trained each year by expanding the University of Washington School of Medicine WWAMI program (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho) to include Spokane. First year MD students will enroll at WSU Spokane, and then move to UW Seattle for their second year.

* Expand existing baccalaureate and master’s level nursing programs and create a Ph.D. nursing program received funded. The lack of Ph.D.-trained faculty has constrained efforts to expand the nursing training programs across the state.

The House budget funds more enrollment than the governor’s budget. The budgets help WSU meet both the demands of business and those of our students by increasing our capacity in engineering and science education. Funding is provided to augment some current enrollments to allow more existing students into high-demand fields, as well as new positions in engineering, sciences and mathematics. The budget includes new baccalaureate students at WSU Tri-Cities and WSU Vancouver for freshman enrollment.

* Retention and completion programs (governor and House $500,000)

Recognizing that the college drop-out rates among low-income and first generation college students is a significant barrier to raising the level of education and training achieved by Washington citizens, the governor and House budgets expand mentoring and academic support services that have proven effective in helping at-risk students complete degrees.

* Industry-based Unified Agriculture Initiative (governor  $3,000,000, House $9,500,000)

The House budget provides $9.5 million to support new faculty and staff positions as well as research and development in the areas of viticulture, enology, fruit breeding, wheat and other grain product development, value-added business development and extension specialists, livestock nutrition and management, enhanced worker safety, continuing education, water quality, salmon habitat and identification of home and commercial pests. In addition, funding is provided for competitive agriculture grant funds, biological intensive and organic agriculture grants and operating and program support for the university’s research and extension centers. The governor had provided $3 million, while WSU had requested $10.8 million for this initiative.

* Fueling Washington with bio-products (governor and House $4,000,000)

Both budgets fund WSU to work with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories to investigate new products and commodities to be developed from processed agricultural waste. Funding will help the WSU-Tri-Cities branch campus develop and grow its expertise in the field of bio-products (including bio-fuels). This item will fund five full-time research scientists who will have a joint appointment at WSU Tri-Cities and PNNL with funding for an additional five researchers to be matched by PNNL. WSU and WSDA jointly requested $6.7 million for bio-products.

* Research-to-products funding (governor and House $500,000)

Both budgets fund projects at UW and WSU that assist researchers in turning new discoveries into marketable products.

* Small Business Development Center access (governor $757,000, House $0)

No funding is provided by the House for the SBDC. The governor’s budget provides funds to expand small business counseling services with a first-time targeted appropriation of critical core funding. It establishes new offices in Southeastern Washington, Kelso-Longview and the Aberdeen-Shelton area. The core support will also add support to the existing centers in Bellingham, Des Moines and Bremerton.

* Policy Consensus Center (governor and House $225,000)

The joint WSU/UW William D. Ruckelshaus Center will identify, carry out and support a process to identify issues that have led to conflict around land use requirements and property rights, and explore practical and effective ways to resolve or reduce that conflict. Funding includes operating support for the Center. 

* Washington Academy of Sciences, (governor and House $340,000)

Both budgets provide funds to establish the Washington Academy of Sciences.

Appointed by the presidents of the University of Washington and Washington State University, this panel of recognized scientific leaders from industry, the universities, and government will render opinions or develop and carry out research related to the major issues facing the state. Funding is provided in the budgets for both research universities.

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