March 15, 2010

Watching for signs of progress in Olympia

By pres

The Legislature begins its special session today, needing to finish its work on the 2010 supplemental budget, including spending cuts and taxes. As we have seen during the 60-day regular session, legislators have been wrestling with the unenviable task of plugging a large hole in the state budget. Finding the right balance between more budget reductions and increased tax revenues is a daunting task and the reason they have gone into special session. We wish them wisdom and a speedy resolution.

The University prefers the Senate version of the operating budget, in which all higher education institutions would have the same 6% cut to their budgets. The House’s version cuts the UW at a higher level than other institutions and also transfers over $18 million in student building fees, which we use for critical capital maintenance projects, into the general fund. We hope the compromise budget looks more like the Senate’s.

With respect to the capital budget, we hope to get a higher funding level approved for the Balmer Hall renovation and for the UW Tacoma Phase 3 project. The majority of both projects are financed with UW building funds–not state bonds– and both were reduced from their original request levels.

We did have some good news during the regular session. A couple of bills were passed that give the University more management flexibility in purchasing and capital projects, enabling us to save more dollars in our business operations. This is especially important in these tight economic times.

As students complete their final exams and head off for a brief respite before spring quarter begins, we are watching closely for signs of progress in Olympia.

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