Universities asked to describe disastrous cut scenarios

Dr. Peter Venkman: We’re headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God-type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…
Dr. Peter Venkman: …dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

“Ghost Busters” (1984)

 The phrase “disaster of biblical proportions” may be a bit of a reach, but perhaps not much, to describe a recent request of the state House and Senate budget committees.

They asked public universities to “model” the impact of three levels of budget cuts: start at the governor’s 25% cut, then go 15% deeper and then 30% beyond the governor’s 25% cut.

Take a minute to catch your breath. Yes, they asked universities to try to grasp the meaning of a 55% cut in state support.

 It does take a while to comprehend what they’re asking and what they’re thinking about–let alone to try to capture it in words. The University of Washington, however, was particularly descriptive in a letter sent to the legislature and shared with the press today (http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/files/2011/02/UW-Letter-re-2011-13-Higher-Education-Biennial-Budget-Reduction-Scenarios.pdf).

The third largest employer in the state’s most populous county, the UW describes the elimination of more than a thousand jobs, turning away hundreds of Washington students, and the eradication of research and service that generates millions for the state. Disaster by any other name…

Each university will have to try to describe the cuts under consideration now. No institution will be able to come up with damages of the magnitude that the UW describes. If the future they have described doesn’t move policymakers, what will?

In order to prepare for whatever the legislature has in store for CWU, President Gaudino met with our own budget writers on Wednesday morning. He asked deans, associate vice presidents, and budget staff to do some budget modeling of their own and to think not just in terms of budget cuts, but in different ways of doing our work: partnerships, collaboration, and other strategies that may allow us to work smarter and better.

The president asked for recommendations by mid-March. The legislature is moving even more quickly. Friday the 25th is the deadline for House bills to be voted out of House fiscal committees and for Senate bills to make it out of Senate Ways & Means. Bills considered “necessary to implement the budget” are exempt from all the deadlines except two: the last day of session and the end of the fiscal year!

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About Linda Schactler

Linda is the former Director of Communications for the Washington State Senate, and former deputy director of the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board. From 2000 through 2010 Linda was the proprietor of Schactler Communications, an Olympia-based public affairs business. She holds a master of arts in English literature from Washington University in St. Louis. Linda can be reached at her Ellensburg office schactler@cwu.edu, 509-963-1384, or on her cell phone, 509-607-4103.
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