It could be worse…

Haggard legislative leaders held a news conference this morning at 10:00 a.m. to announce a compromise version of the biennial budget. Legislators worked through the night and wrapped up around 5:00 this morning. The budget held no surprises. We will be chewing on the thousands of lines of budget information over the next several days. But so far, here’s what I think the budget says:

The total budget cut for CWU is $29.2 million for the next two years. This is just about exactly what George Clark’s presentation to staff and to the BOT was last week. The number includes pension and salary reductions (more on that in a minute). The reduction brings biennial funding from $93.2 million to $64 million.

The legislature made several changes to personnel policy: retirement, hiring, pensions, health care. The budget does include a cut in CWU’s wage base of 3 percent, or about $3.6 million. At this point, I haven’t been able to find any specifics on how we have to take the cut. Just that we have to give up the money. The cut doesn’t apply to people earning less than $2,500 per month or student employees. The legislature suspends cost-of-living adjustments for employees under plan one of the state public employees retirement system and reduces state support for university pension contributions above 6 percent.

The budget assumes a tuition limit for each baccalaureate. For us, it’s 14 percent per year. The legislature then assumes we’ll implement that full increase–and they subtract the amount from our base budget! Our board of trustees may increase tuition above that level. If they do, they must set aside funds to help median-income students meet the new tuition increases.

Now for the sort-of good news. The legislature adds $124 million to the State Need Grant to offset the tuition increases they assume. Institutions also have to set aside 5 percent of tuition to help students with need pay for school. Something of a surprise the budget reduces Need Grants for independent and for-profit schools by $17 million. State Work Study program is reduced by $31 million, but not suspended, as proposed in earlier budgets.

Capital budget negotiations concluded at 5:00 a.m. this morning after all-night discussions that have addressed the dispute over where to set the state debt limit. The House and the Senate have agreed to reduce the state’s debt limit from 9 percent to 7.7, but will not require a constitutional amendment, which the Senate had proposed.

The details of the capital budget are being released…NOW!! Gotta go. More later.

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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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