State Relations

March 2, 2016

Budgets are out! Here’s how they stack up on UW priorities

The most recent state revenue forecast in mid-February dealt a blow to the state and made negotiating a supplemental budget more challenging. The forecast reduced the current biennium’s revenues by $67 million and the next biennium’s by another $442 million. Read more details on the February 17 state revenue forecast here.

Both the House and the Senate released their opening budget proposals last week, and there were notable differences between the two as they impact higher education. Here are some of the highlights for UW:

Tuition Backfill

The Senate funded the tuition backfill for institutions, by and large, and the House did not provide backfill. The Senate’s budget also includes a limitation on enrollment growth that could potentially suppress the numbers of resident undergraduates—we hope that won’t make it into the final compromise budget. As part of her visit last week, President Cauce met with budget leadership in the House, and urged legislators to include backfill in the go-home budget.

Leasehold Excise Tax (LET) fix

Our LET bills, HB 2523 and SB 6462 were heard early in session. While lawmakers of all stripes indicate support the tax policy of allowing us to once again pay only the same LET as private owners pay in property tax, technically the bills are dead, as they did not move out of committee. We hope there might still be a chance to rectify this unintended consequence of a 2013 assessor bill before the current session is out.

RIDE: Rural dentistry in Spokane

We continue to work with the Spokane delegation, as well as other stakeholders, on our request to establish a simulation lab in Spokane and develop greater service-learning clinical rotations. Despite strong support, it was not funded in either budget. We hope that there may still be a chance to include the $200,000 per year that would expand our rotations and expand the RIDE mission to rural and under-served areas on both sides of the mountains.

Computer Science & Engineering Building

The CSE II building was partially funded in the 2015-17 budget, and our request for $15 million in the supplemental budget (to replace the $15 million appropriation from our building fund) has come up against a meager supplemental capital budget: less than $90 million total statewide in last week’s proposals. CSE II was not funded in either budget. We continue to push for at least partial funding in 2016, critical to keeping private fundraising on track for the remaining $70+ million balance.

That’s where the big stuff stands at this moment in time. Stay tuned for more as budget writers get comfortable in their seats around the negotiating table in this final stretch.