Senate committee releases proposed operating budget

The state Senate Ways & Means Committee released its proposed operating budget on Wednesday, March 28. The budget provides significant new funding for health care education, math and science education, and bioproducts technology. In addition, it addresses most of the priorities contained in the WSU budget request, but creates a significant funding problem by assuming tuition revenue will be available to fund salary increases. When tuition and state funds are considered, the Senate budget provides less funding than either the Governor’s or the House’s proposed budget passed earlier in the week. The proposed Senate budget differs from the other budgets in the following ways:

* Senate offsets to tuition increases will mean $10.5 million less funding. The Senate budget authorizes tuition increases of 7 percent per year, then assumes the revenue is used to fund a third of the cost of the state mandated salary increases. WSU estimates that the tuition increase would generate no more than $23.5 million, of which at least $10.5 million would be needed for mandated salary increases. This would create serious problems since WSU has planned to use the tuition increase revenue to offset expanded tuition waiver programs, fund salary increases for positions not funded by the state model, cover increased cost of purchased goods and services and make program improvements.

Both the Governor and the House budgets allow WSU to retain all tuition increases for quality improvements and cost increases.  The House would go even further by limiting the tuition increases to 5 percent per year and providing state funding for the additional 2 percent. 
* Senate funds $4.3 Million for escalating energy costs. Only the Senate provides funding needed to cover some of the unavoidable costs of switching from coal to natural gas to heat the Pullman campus and to pay higher fuel prices on all campuses.

* Senate Offers Recruitment and Retention Pool.  Only the Senate budget creates a pool of $3.9 million to fund salary increases to recruit and retain highly talented faculty.

* Senate Provides Increased Enrollment for WSU Tri-Cites. The Senate budget funds more enrollments for freshman and nursing than do the other budgets.  Details are below.
* Senate has less funding for the Unified Agricultural Initiative. The Senate budget provides $2.8 million compared to $3 million in the Governor’s budget and $9.5 million in the House budget.

* Senate has inadequate funding for WWAMI.  The Senate budget funds the Spokane expansion of the UW medical program at WSU Spokane, but inexplicably reduced $7.34 million program to $6.4 million. The program was fully-funded to WSU in the House and governor budgets.
* Senate funds Applied Sciences Laboratory.  $3.5 million is provided in the Senate budget to promote the development of the Spokane-based Applied Sciences Laboratory.  ASL was not in previous budgets.

* Senate provides more funding for Bioproducts Technology. The Senate budget includes $5.6 million for bio-products research, including funds to attract a senior scientist with national academy-level credentials. The Governor and the House each set the number at $4 million.

* Reduced funding for purchasing, maintenance and utilities. The Governor’s budget provides $300,000 to restore purchasing cuts and $0.6 million for maintenance and operations that would support the new facilities in Mt. Vernon.  This funding is missing from both the Senate and the House budgets. The expenses are unavoidable. The Senate budget does restore $1 million in maintenance funding for new buildings in Vancouver and Pullman that was missing in the House version.
* Senate funds expansion of the Small Business Development Centers. The Senate budget matches the governor’s budget in providing $757,000 to expand small business counseling services. No funding was provided by the House for the SBDC. 

* More doctors and nurses                        
Governor      $9,551,000
House      $9,551,000
Senate      $8,716,000

All three proposed budgets would invest in health education at the WSU Spokane Riverpoint campus.  Twenty additional doctors will be trained yearly 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.

The budgets expand the existing baccalaureate and masters levels nursing programs and create a Ph.D. nursing program.  The lack of PH.D.-trained faculty has constrained efforts to expand the nursing training programs across the state. The Senate budget provides an additional 20 undergraduate nurses for the Tri-Cities.

The funding level per student provided in the Senate budget is inadequate to offer the programs as proposed.  

* Doing the Math: well-prepared college graduates in the workforce                             
Governor      $7,261,000
House      $8,364,000
Senate      $9,414,000

The Senate budget funds more enrollment than the Governor and House budgets. The budget includes new baccalaureate students at WSU Tri-Cities and WSU Vancouver for freshman enrollment, as well as new positions in engineering, sciences and mathematics. Funding is provided in all budgets to augment some current enrollments to allow more existing students into high-demand fields is not provided by the Senate.

* Vancouver electrical engineering. The Senate provides $2 million in start-up funding for a new electrical engineering program in Vancouver, while the House provided $1.1 million.
* Retention and Completion Programs
Governor      $500,000
House      $500,000
Senate      $1,330,000

All three budgets provide $500,000 to expand mentoring and academic support services that have proven effective in helping at-risk students complete degrees. Additionally, the Senate provides $830,000 to retain students pursuing degrees in high demand fields.

* An Industry-Based Unified Agriculture Initiative
Governor      $3,000,000
House      $9,500,000
Senate      $2,800,000

The Senate budget provides only $2.8 million of the $10.8 million requested by WSU and the agricultural community to expand research important to the state. The House funds $9.5 million, while the Governor budgets $3 million.

* Fueling Washington with Bio-products
Governor      $4,000,000
House      $4,000,000
Senate      $5,600,000

All budgets fund WSU to work with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories and the Washington State Department of Agriculture to investigate new products and commodities to be developed from processed agricultural waste. All budgets fund five full-time research scientists at WSU Tri-Cities and PNNL with funding for an additional five researchers to be matched by PNNL.  The Senate budget also provides for a star researcher to direct the center for bio-products and bio-energy.

* Research to Products Funding
Governor      $500,000
House      $500,000
Senate            none

The House and Governor budgets fund projects at UW and WSU that assist researchers in turning new discoveries into marketable products.  The Senate budget does not.

* Access to Small Business Development Centers
Governor      $757,000
House             none
Senate      $757,000

The Senate and governor’
s budgets provide funds to expand small business counseling services with a first-time targeted appropriation of critical core funding.

*Finding Common Ground: The Policy Consensus Center
Governor      $225,000
House      $225,000
Senate      $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      $340,000
House      $340,000
Senate      $170,000

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.

* Retaining the Best:  Salary Increases and Benefits
Governor      $32,533,000
House      $32,533,000
Senate      $26,980,000

The Senate budget provides for salary increase averaging 3.2 percent on July 1, 2007, and 2.0 percent on July 1, 2008. An additional pool is provided in the Senate plan for retention of outstanding faculty.  Amounts shown her are state funds only.  The Senate budget assumes another $10.5 million from tuition revenue.  Governor and House budgets have salary increases averaging 3.2 percent on September 1, 2007, and 2.0 percent on September 1, 2008, are provided for most employees. 

For more information and local color see Larry Gander’s Olympia Update at

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