MARCH 2006: Home arrow Briefings arrow Latest arrow Lawmakers Wrap Up Budget; Higher Ed May Have to Wait for Relief
Lawmakers Wrap Up Budget; Higher Ed May Have to Wait for Relief Print

Even though the state government is sitting on a $1.5 billion surplus as it nears the end of the 2006 legislative session, alumni should not expect significant new dollars for higher education this year, says UW State Relations Director Randy Hodgins, ’79, ’83.

There are many reasons why public higher education is being asked to wait until the Legislature writes its next two-year budget, he explains. First, Gov. Christine Gregoire, ’69, ’71, has asked that at least $900 million of the surplus be put into a reserve to meet demands in the next budget cycle. The governor is also waiting for the Washington Learns study due at the end of 2006.

Also, Hodgins says, it is rare for the Legislature to launch major initiatives in the middle of its two-year budget cycle.

As Columns went to press in late February, versions of the state’s supplemental budget were coming out in both the House and the Senate. At the beginning of March lawmakers will try to reconcile the two proposals and also meet the governor’s expectations. They are racing to adjourn by March 9.

The University has several high priority items it hopes will make it through the final budget negotiations. UW officials would like to see more state investment in research, which, in turn, will result in more jobs and stronger economic growth. A $4.5 million capital investment in nanotechnology labs, equipment and office space could lead to recruiting one of the world’s leaders in the field. Also, the federal government is willing to spend $4 million to renovate biological structures labs in the Health Sciences Center if the state matches the grant.

The UW also hopes that the Legislature will cover operations and maintenance expenses for two buildings constructed and renovated at no cost to the state. These include the South Lake Union biomedical research facilities and the new Foege Building for bioengineering and genome sciences, opening March 8.

“Another important request is $2 million to improve undergraduate retention and graduation rates,” Hodgins says.

Alumni who are interested in higher education issues should contact their representative or the

leadership of the House and Senate prior to the close of the session. The toll-free legislative hotline is 1-800-562-6000 and more can be found on the web site. Alumni can also visit Huskies for Higher Education.