Yesterday the Governor released her 2013-15 biennial budget proposal. This marks the final budget proposal of Governor Gregoire’s eight-year term, and the first step in preparation for the 2013 legislative session. I first want to thank Governor Gregoire for her exemplary service to the state, and particularly commend her leadership as we navigated the last four years of extraordinary budget challenges.
While it appears Washington’s economy is slowly recovering from the Great Recession, significant state budget challenges, including a $970 million budget deficit over the next two years and a court mandate to fully fund basic education, remain. Higher education is not exempt from these challenges. Since 2009, the University of Washington’s state funding has been cut by nearly 50 percent. Despite significant tuition increases to help mitigate these reductions, funding per student at the University of Washington is still $3,000 less than it was before the recession started.
Last year, the legislature passed the first ‘no new cuts’ education budget since 2008. The governor’s proposed 2013-15 budget would continue to hold the university harmless from further reductions, with targeted new investments in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and student financial aid. This is a good step forward and we commend the governor for recognizing the role that higher education has in fueling our economic recovery.
However, more is needed to address the real financial pressures facing higher education. If Washington truly wants to grow and sustain a 21st century economy, we must re-commit to an accessible and affordable public higher education system for Washington’s next generation by re-investing in public higher education.
There is still much work to be done. I look forward to working with Governor-elect Inslee and the state legislature in the coming months as budget conversations progress.