WSU submits 2021–2023 biennial budget request

The Cougar Pride statue at the WSU Pullman campus.

Washington State University has submitted its 2021-2023 biennial operating and capital budget requests to the state’s Office of Financial Management.

These requests reflect the onset of a recession, highlighted by an operating budget decision package modeling the impact of a 15% reduction in overall appropriations as requested by the state.

A 15% reduction equates to approximately $37 million per year. That level of reduction amounts to roughly the size of the colleges of Nursing and Medicine combined, or the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the Graduate School and the entire student services budget at the Pullman campus combined.

The request notes that WSU’s state appropriations only last year reached levels last seen in 2008, with many reductions from the Great Recession still present.

“Rather than simply regrow to its old self, the university in that time has added a medical school, a new campus in Everett, new satellite academic programs in Bremerton and Yakima, thousands more high­​ demand student enrollments and a fleet of new services to drive success among those student populations from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds,” the decision package states

The biennial 2021-2023 capital budget request was approved by the WSU Board of Regents in May. It includes requests that would support construction jobs bolstering the economy, including $52.6 million for the construction of the WSU Vancouver Life Sciences Building, $35 million in minor capital preservation, and $15 million for the WSU Spokane Phase One Building Renovation.

Approved by the WSU Board of Regents in June, the operating budget request includes two additional decision packages seeking new funding. One is a $3.6 million biennial request to fund the third and fourth years of the 20-seat expansion of the medical school and $931,000 for maintenance and operations cost for the new academic building at WSU Tri-Cities.

The budget request acknowledges the tremendous fiscal challenge the state faces in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In September, the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released a report that set the state’s projected shortfall through June 2023 at nearly $4.5 billion. That forecast will be refined again next month based on the latest economic data. The governor will produce his budget proposal in December and the Legislature will convene in January to begin crafting proposals to be released in the spring.

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