State Relations

December 22, 2020

Gov. Inslee unveils 2021-23 budget proposals

Gov. Jay Inslee released his 2021 supplemental, 2021-23 operating, and 2021-23 capital budget proposals last week. The Governor’s proposed biennial operating budget includes $57.6 billion in spending focused heavily on public health and economic recovery.

The budget commits an additional $397 million to the state’s public health system for personal protective equipment, testing supplies and lab costs, contact tracing, epidemiology work, and COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Investments to improve data infrastructure were also incorporated to better inform future public health decision making.

Inslee’s proposal centers equity-focused and climate policies, and his economic recovery plans prioritize protecting workers, improving the state’s unemployment system, and expanding basic needs assistance and job skills training. He also aims to significantly invest in capital projects around the state to create new jobs.

The state’s revenue projections are down more than $3 billion over the biennium compared to pre-pandemic levels. To balance the 2021 budget, the governor proposes utilizing the state’s “Rainy Day Fund.” For future biennia, his plans implement cost saving measures like omitting most state employee wage increases and requiring furloughs, and would also raise new revenue through a capital gains tax and tax on health insurers.

Recognizing that the state’s revenue remains uncertain, the UW’s 2021 legislative agenda prioritizes preserving current state funding levels to avoid significant harm to students, faculty and staff, and the academic and administrative units that serve our students and generate billions of dollars in annual research and economic activity for the state. At the same time, securing additional funding for UW Medicine as they respond to the pandemic is critical to its continued success and future viability.

The Governor’s budget proposal includes significant support for the University’s legislative priorities with major investments including:

  • $60M for UW Medicine in FY21 to offset costs associated with COVID-19 response efforts and ensure continued operations;
  • $56M per year in ongoing and expanded funding for safety-net clinical care at UW Medical ($55M) and UW Dentistry ($1M) clinics;
  • $2.4M over the biennium to ramp-up planned child psychiatry fellowships and psychiatry residencies;
  • $2.3M over the biennium for the UW’s medical school partnership with Gonzaga University to provide Spokane and eastern Washington medical students with a new, state-of-the-art learning space;
  • $965K starting in FY23 for maintenance and operations for the state-funded Health Sciences Education Building at UW Seattle.

Despite these promising investments, the budget would require furloughs and suspend regular merit increases for University staff throughout the 2021-23 biennium. The Office of State Relations will gather more information in the coming weeks and work with campus partners to share feedback on this proposal.

In addition, Inslee’s capital budget proposal fully funds the UW’s capital requests:

  • $45.4M to construct an interdisciplinary teaching and research facility for the College of Engineering in Seattle;
  • $36M to construct a new business and engineering building at UW Tacoma;
  • $5M in design funding for phase 2 of the Magnuson Health Sciences Center renovation and replacement;
  • $3M in design funding for renovation of Anderson Hall in Seattle, and;
  • $191.25M to construct a new Behavioral Health Teaching Facility on the UW Medical Center-Northwest campus.

Overall, the Office of External Affairs was thrilled to see the investments the Governor proposed for our students and UW Medicine. The release of the Governor’s budget proposals represents the first step in the budget process. The House of Representatives and Senate will introduce their budget proposals during legislative session, which is scheduled to begin on Monday, Jan. 11 and will run for 105 consecutive days.

For additional details, read the Washington State Office of Financial Management’s budget and policy highlights and see the brief prepared by the Office of Planning & Budgeting on their Briefs page.