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From the VP: 2022 legislative session preview

In the immortal words of the 70’s rock band Emerson, Lake and Palmer, “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.” Yes, the 2022 Washington state legislative session begins this week and like last year, it will again be conducted primarily remotely. A virtual session — like all pandemic pivots — presents its own set of challenges. In a “normal” session, much of our work happens when we are able to catch a member or staffer in the hallway between meetings or in line for a cup of coffee. Serendipitous encounters like these simply don’t happen between Zoom meetings. However, I know our State Relations team will continue to find creative ways to ensure the University’s priorities are heard as they did so ably last session.

While Washington’s economy continues its unprecedented rebound from the dire projections made in the early days of the pandemic, the unrelenting COVID rollercoaster continues to present numerous challenges. Because this is a short “supplemental budget” session, the University limited its requests to the most essential items including:

  • $18.45M for salary adjustments for faculty and staff who are not scheduled to receive wage increases in the current biennial budget. Recruiting and retaining effective educators and staff is critical to the continued success of students and the University. This is our number one priority!
  • $2M to expand computer science and engineering degrees by an additional 100 per year to meet sustained, high demand from students and employers.
  • $505K to create two behavioral health pharmacy residencies housed at the new Behavioral Health Teaching Facility. These residencies would help address the state’s critical behavioral health patient and workforce needs and the request is in partnership with Washington State University, which is requesting additional funds for two pharmacy residencies in Eastern Washington.
  • $800K for a three-year research program led by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation in Spokane focused on community health metrics to help proactively address health disparities in rural and tribal communities in Eastern Washington.
  • $621K maintenance and operation (M&O) funds for Milgard Hall at UW Tacoma. Construction is ahead of schedule and occupancy is now expected in October 2022 instead of mid-2023.

For more details regarding the UW’s capital and operating budget requests, see the 2022 Legislative Agenda. In an encouraging initial step forward in the process, last month we learned that Governor Inslee included all of our funding requests and allocated additional funds to other important initiatives in his supplemental budget proposal. Support from the Governor coupled with strong revenue projections causes me to be cautiously optimistic about the Senate and House budgets as well. For regular updates throughout the 2022 session, be sure to check out the Office of State Relation’s blog.