February 28 Budget Update
This morning, Senator Ed Murray, Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, shared a "supplemental budget proposal" for the current biennium that will be considered soon by the full committee. Although there are possibly problematic nuances we are working to understand, overall it is good news from the perspective of public higher education.
The budget proposes no additional cuts to Western beyond those substantial reductions already made for the current biennium. There are no cuts to the State Need Grant. And funding for work study would be restored.
All three issues were top priorities for the many who participated in this process, and we should feel proud of this budget as a tangible implementation of the priorities we all have been emphasizing: affordable access to continuing high quality.
Do consider the history. For Western, we started this session with the Governor's proposal of a potentially catastrophic cut of $7M to Western and elimination of work study statewide. The House proposal reduced that cut to a still very serious $2M and made a reduction in the State Need Grant. Today's Senate proposal moves substantially further in a positive direction: $0 cut, protect State Need Grant, restore work study. Details can be found here.
This is a significant turnaround — particularly if one goes back several years. At that time, public higher education seemed the place to go to solve budget problems. Go with impunity: slashing cuts unlike anything seen elsewhere in the nation and escalating tuition.
Not this time.
The turnaround did not just happen but is the result of the hard work of so many arguing on behalf of public higher education: parents, students, faculty, staff, trustees, private sector leaders, union leadership, media, alumni, and community supporters. The emergence of effective leadership in both houses has also been critical.
We must stay engaged. First, because neither house has yet passed a budget and, after that happens, there will be a need to reconcile the two budgets through a conference process.
It's always important to say "thank you" if you are pleased with what Senator Murray is proposing. Then, let others know what you prefer become the final outcome. And, promise to support those who sustain public higher education's ability to create brighter futures for Washington. Tell them you have their backs, if those are your feelings. Western Advocates remains one place to stay up-to-date and to have a say.
That is the immediate future. It is now also time to turn our attention to the longer term.
Truth is that, even if we avoid further cuts to the current budget, long term Washington's fiscal situation is in a world of hurt. More and more, leaders are preparing to face up to those challenges. They are asking for help: ideas, support. And, we must similarly refocus our attention to the longer term. After all, that is the bedrock of our mission: forward looking as we are committed to applying our considerable strengths to address areas of critical state need. This long-term issue is something you can expect to hear more about in future remarks and communications.