House Majority Party Releases “First Draft” Budget

The House majority Democrats today released a supplemental budget proposal characterized by its author as a “first draft.”  In his presentation to the Capitol Press Corps, the Ways & Means chair Ross Hunter said real per capita spending in Washington is now at 1985 levels, with the lowest state and federal tax rates in 50 years.

In an era where just holding flat is good news, being cut by less than expected is also a relief. The House budget, therefore, brings “good news” in that it reduces funding for higher education by about $65 million, rather than the $100 – $150 million feared before the revenue forecast last week. Last week budget writers learned that reduced demand for state services combined with higher than anticipated tax collections would forestall the need for some budget cuts by about $400 million.

Today’s budget is only a draft and there is much work to be done. The Senate is expected to have its version of the budget out later this week. Meantime, here’s what’s in the budget for CWU compared to the proposal of the governor last Dec.

Proposed Reduction
Governor                   House

General reduction               $5.35 mil                    $2.06 mil

Insurance funding cut        $25 / FTE                  $50 / FTE

State Need Grant                $0                               $10 million

State Work Study               $8.1 million                $0

General reductions: Rather than simply showing a general reduction in state support, the House took the time to show it as a reduction in funding per FTE. The last budget in which that funding was relevant was around 2008, when we were funded at 8,808 FTE. As you may know, we now enroll an average of 1,000 students more than that. This proposal reduces that official enrollment number by 97 FTE.  The House plan also reduces the funding provided for health insurance for each employee.

“Investments”: The House budget proposal echoes the governor’s call for increasing the production of “engineers” in order to support the aerospace industry. The House set aside $3.8 million each for WSU and UW, but also asked comprehensive institutions to articulate the kind and number of engineering graduates each produces, signaling perhaps that another draft of the budget will spread the funding further.

House budget writers also earmarked $6.4 million to support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)–about $4.4 million of which is available to baccalaureate institutions. Each school would have to compete for the funding, appropriated to the Office of the Student Achievement Council, the successor to the Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Financial aid: The House proposes no cuts to State Work Study, but reduces funding by $10 million for the State Need Grant next fiscal year (July 2012 – June 2013). The cut is effected by reducing the total amount of money for which any one student may qualify.

 Next Steps: The House will continue to work on this “first draft” budget. Later this week the Senate will release a proposal that reflects their priorities. Then the House, Senate, and governor will sit down and try to come up with a compromise version by March 8, the last day of regular session.

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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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