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University presidents call for state to restore funding

Washington State Capitol building with US, state and WSU flags flying in front.
Washington State Capitol Building

By Addy Hatch, WSU News

WSU President Kirk Schulz and other state university presidents have asked Gov. Jay Inslee to restore full funding for faculty and staff pay raises in the next state budget.

The state had funded faculty and staff wage increases at Washington’s six public universities until 2015. That year, the funding model changed to require that raises called for under the state budget be paid by a split of state funds and the universities’ tuition revenue.

But tuition dollars also pay for employee benefits, state minimum-wage increases and other charges, and tuition increases are capped each year, said a letter to Inslee signed by the six presidents of Washington’s public universities. That has led to shortfalls at the universities in the last two budget cycles when it comes to paying for employee raises.

As a result, the universities have either declined to provide wage increases at the state-prescribed levels, backfilled shortfalls through reserves, or both.

“This leaves us at risk of eroding the very performance levels we’ve attained for our students and employers while compromising our ability to innovate and meet regional economic and industry needs,” the letter said.

The state Office of Financial Management acknowledged the request and said it would be considered as the 2019 biennial budget is written.

The Legislature convenes Jan. 14. The House and Senate will negotiate a compromise budget to send to the governor before the scheduled April 28 adjournment.

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