April 10, 2013

Today House Majority Democrats At noon released budget proposals for the 2013 – 2015 biennium.  Now that we the former and current governors’ budget proposals and plans from the House and Senate, we can quadrangulate to estimate where the final budget will land (…….of course if I really could do that with any precision, I could make a fortune as a contract lobbyist….but I digress).

First, a look at the House operating budget proposal: Key aspects of the operating budget included the following:

  • 3% + 3% tuition increases for CWU, EWU, and TESC, and 5% for the other baccalaureates. Under the House agreement, CWU could choose to increase tuition beyond budgeted levels (and incur certain “mitigation” requirements), but it would be better to get that authority in the budget. We will try.
  • Budget language states that collective bargaining agreements for WFSE and PSE are funded, but the numbers are not apparent in this or any other budget document. The Senate and Gregoire budgets instruct institutions do not provide a separate line for this funding, instructing institutions that they have enough to meet requirements. The House budget is a little more specific. The specific section language is there — but no money. More investigation required.
  • Funds associated with the 3% salary reduction are restored.
  • The budget provides $2.76 million for “improvements in student completion and retention rates in order to increase the university’s four-year graduation rate.”
  • A proviso provides $25,000 to conduct a study identifying the duties encompassed in a state-funded teacher’s typical work day.  This is a study we anticipated based on conversations with a legislator who toured our campus and was appropriately impressed with our College of Education.

A side-by-side comparison of the four budget proposals is coming to this post soon.

The capital budget is unbelievable. It proposes to fully fund nearly every university priority. Here are the proposed funding leveles (in millions of $)

  • Science Building   – $63.483
  • Combined Utilities – $6.2
  • Nutrition Science – $2.921
  • Peterson Hall Replacement – $4.092
  • Brooks Library Learning Commons- $3.337
  • Minor Works – Preservation $7

Science II is now robustly funded in all four budget proposals. Four other large requests—combined utilities, NEHS, Peterson hall and Brooks Library—are well funded in three of the four budgets. As a result, CWU is very well positioned as caucuses begin budget negotiations in earnest.

What about our Samuelson proposal? CWU had the mixed fortune this year of having two big projects in the construction category–together totaling more than $120 million. Science II was one, prioritized just ahead of the Samuelson Communication & Technology Center.  SCTC is slated to replace the southern half of the existing old Samuelson and renovate the northern half. Together it will be a state-of-the-art facility for the Dept of Communication, Information Technology, and Public Affairs. It also would provide facilities for the creation of compelling on-line academic content. Cool stuff, right?

Just as great is that we finally would return to service a large, dilapidated chunk of university property.  It would transform the space between the SURC and Samuelson and the Japanese Garden, opening it up as a sort of Red Square – incredible open space for all kinds of activities.

Anyway, having two amazing projects in the construction category is relatively rare. Two remarkable projects, each more than $60 million–competing with each other as well as with every other baccalaureate.  There is no chance one institution would have been allowed to gobble up half of the capital construction budget.  Instead the Samuelson Communication and Technology Center will come before the legislature again in 2015 and we’ll be ready.



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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