Washington was not the only northwest state to provide strong budgetary support for its higher education system during the 2007 legislative session. Oregon lawmakers recently wrapped up work on their 2007-09 biennial budget and the Oregon Department of Higher Education (Oregon University System) received a two-year increase of more than 18 percent. This is the largest increase in the higher education operating budget since 1999.
Like Washington, Oregon higher education benefited from a strong initial proposal from Governor Ted Kulongoski in December. That proposal called for a 17.1 percent general fund increase. The Oregon Legislature went beyond the Governor’s recommendations, providing increased support for faculty salaries, enrollment growth, and additional FTE positions to improve faculty/student ratios. Funds were also provided for a package of research investments promoted by the Oregon Innovation Council which includes $9 million for the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute and its programs on each of the participating campuses.
Governor Kulongoski and Washington Governor Christine Gregoire have known each other for a long time, having both served as their respective state attorney’s general. They are both Democrats and their 2007 legislative success is due in part to Democratic majorities in both the Washington and Oregon state legislatures.