Skip to main content Skip to navigation
WSU Government Relations diana.amortegui

What the Senate operating budget means for WSU

Leaders in the state Senate today unveiled an operating budget proposal that, for WSU, mirrors the version introduced by the governor in December in many respects.

Highlights include the following.

  • Cost of living adjustments of 4 percent in fiscal year 2024 and 3 percent in fiscal year 2025 are provided for non-represented classified staff. Funding provided for faculty, professional staff and graduate students would be sufficient to support increases of 2.2 percent and 1.6 percent over the two years. Funding was also provided for bargaining units.
  • The Senate fully funds WSU’s $3.9 million biennial request to enhance nursing salaries but funds the university’s near $500,000 equipment renewal request on a one-time basis only.
  • Like the governor, the budget does not fund WSU’s request for a social work program at WSU Tri-Cities.
  • The Senate plan funds the infectious disease component of WSU’s public health degree proposal for WSU Pullman but does not fund the behavioral health component for Vancouver and Spokane. The governor’s plan funded both.
  • Like the governor, the Senate fully funds the governor’s $7.7 million request to establish the Institute for Northwest Energy Futures centered at WSU Tri-Cities.
  • Like the governor, the Senate provides $1.2 million over the biennium in core support for the Ruckelshaus Center.
  • The Senate plan also funds a series of legislator requests involving WSU, including the creation of a journalism fellowship program for the Murrow College of Communication, a MESA program at WSU Everett, and assorted small assignments for research and work groups.
  • Like the governor, the Senate plan also completes a fund swap of sorts with the capital budget by providing $10 million more in operating dollars for maintenance and operation to temporarily supplant funding historically provided in the capital budget that would now be repurposed to bolster minor works efforts, especially preservation activities to reduce deferred maintenance needs across the WSU system.

The House is expected to release its operating budget proposal on Monday. Once all three budgets are on the table, negotiators from the House, Senate and Governor’s office will hammer out a compromise.

Tuition could be realized sooner under bill sent to Governor’s desk

Tuition for Washington’s colleges and universities could be set sooner thanks to a bill passed by the state House this afternoon, which now heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. Senate Bill 5079 cleared the House with a unanimous 48-0 vote and would have a calculation that determines the maximum allowable increase in tuition made in October of each year.

WSU has supported the bill throughout the legislative session. Currently, the Office of Financial Management, the state’s budget office, provides public institutions of higher education with that allowable tuition increase percent in March for the academic year beginning the following August. By making the calculation in October instead, colleges and universities are provided the ability to set and communicate the actual rate of tuition sooner than before. In turn, this can help students who are applying to college know what their cost of attendance will be months before they do currently.

The bill, which passed unanimously from both chambers of the Legislature, now awaits a signature from Governor Inslee.

State revenue forecast projects decline over next two biennia

The state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released its quarterly forecast yesterday that projects decreased state tax revenues over the next two biennia and stagnant growth in the current biennium.

The forecast decreased by $483 million for the upcoming 2023–25 biennium and by $541 million for the following 2025–27 biennium.

A slowing housing market, a dip in personal income, and a likely increase in interest rates are among the key causes. The economists responsible for the forecast could not fully account for the recent banking failures’ impact on the state economy, given how recently they occurred. Total revenues, for which legislators can spend, for the upcoming biennium starting July 1 are now projected to be around $65.7 billion. While not disastrous, the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee said during the Council’s presentation that spending goals would need to be curbed.

This forecast is crucial as it serves as a roadmap for both the Senate and House operating budgets, which are scheduled to be unveiled this and next week – kickstarting final budget deliberations before the legislative session concludes on April 23rd.

Congresswoman Schrier hears from farmers, agricultural partners at WSU Puyallup R&E Center ahead of the 2023 Farm Bill

Congresswoman Kim Schrier (WA-08) convened a listening session at the WSU Puyallup R&E Center to hear from the local agriculture community on their priorities, concerns, and questions surrounding the upcoming Farm Bill. Congresswoman Schrier has been named the Chair of the New Democrat Coalition’s Farm Bill Task Force and has served on the House Agriculture Committee for four years.

WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) Dean Wendy Powers moderated the event, which included farmers, producers, and other agriculture partners from across the state to voice their thoughts on the upcoming Farm Bill. The Congresswoman and her staff will take the stories they heard back to Washington, D.C. as they work to craft legislation to address the needs and challenges of today’s farmers.

WSU is grateful to the Congresswoman for her leadership in funding the Research Facilities Act, which is an integral part of meeting WSU’s infrastructure needs in CAHNRS and the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM).  For our institution’s research capabilities, the impact of this aging infrastructure is pronounced as we try to maintain our global competitiveness, focusing on new technologies and innovation while training the next generation of workforce to meet the needs of our state, nation, and global agriculture economies.

The Farm Bill, which was last passed in 2018, provides funding for several significant agricultural and food programs for the following five to six years. The present Farm Bill, which is due to expire in 2023, must be updated to address new issues as well as reauthorized for ongoing programs.

Programs essential to Washington’s agricultural community—such as agricultural research, trade and access to international markets, crop insurance, forestry and conservation programs, and nutrition programs— are set to expire without the enactment of a new Farm Bill.

The House Agriculture Committee continues to hold listening sessions across the country to review the efficacy of each Farm bill provision.


University salaries, health science degrees among advocacy topics for WSU chancellors’ Capitol visits

Leaders from three of WSU’s campuses met with over a dozen legislators over two days advocating for top WSU legislative priorities. Chancellors Sandra Haynes of WSU Tri-Cities, Mel Netzhammer of WSU Vancouver, and Daryll DeWald of WSU Spokane met with their local legislators as well as key lawmakers given the university’s asks, with the top priority being a cost of living adjustment for university employees.

On Wednesday, Chancellor Haynes met with the legislators from the Tri-Cities with discussion topics including the Institute for Northwest Energy Futures (INEF) and the university’s legislative ask to establish a four-plus-one bachelor’s and master’s of social work on the Tri-Cities campus. Chancellor Netzhammer participated in meetings on Thursday to provide updates on the developing construction of the Vancouver Life Sciences Building, previously funded by the Legislature, with legislators from Southwest Washington. He also spoke with lawmakers about the bachelor’s of public health degree WSU is seeking funding for. Chancellor DeWald also shared with lawmakers from his region the importance of funding WSU’s salary enhancement ask for nursing faculty and staff, which have seen a significant turnover in the past three years. He also advocated for the Team Health Education Building, which would add much needed capacity for the growing health sciences disciplines on the Spokane campus.

The state Legislature is now beyond the midway point of the 105-day session, as week 10 of 15 concludes. A new forecast of state revenues will be produced Monday, providing legislators with the final piece of information they will need to roll out their operating budget proposals over the next two weeks.

Below, WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor Sandra Haynes records remarks about the campus’ work on energy research initatives for a local legislator’s newsletter.



House environment committee hears alternative jet fuel bill

The Sustainable Aviation Biofuels Work Group would be codified under SB 5447, heard in the House yesterday. The group of business and government leaders, among other stakeholders, is convened by WSU and is charged with working to identify opportunities and challenges facing the emerging industry.

The workgroup first convened in 2012 and relies on collaborative discussions among a variety of stakeholders ranging from scientists to industry experts and others. These conversations inform the development of recommendations for business, research, and policy purposes gathered in a report published by WSU and submitted to the Legislature and the governor.

In testimony during the hearing, WSU Assistant Director of State Relations Connor Haggerty testified in support of the effort noting that the bill would establish the work group in statute. “Section four codifies a work group convened by WSU which has operated most recently through budget proviso language,” Haggerty said to the committee. You can find his remarks below.

The sponsor of the bill, Senator Andy Billig, also spoke during the hearing. He detailed how Washington state is well tailored to be a leader in SAF noting “…we’ve got this incredible academic power. That is something a lot of people don’t know. The leaders academically and research for sustainable aviation fuels is Washington State University, actually WSU and MIT – they are the FAA center of excellence for sustainable aviation fuels.”

WSU is co-leader of ASCENT with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a consortium of research universities, government agencies, national laboratories, and private sector partners convened by the Federal Aviation Administration nearly a decade ago. You can view Sen. Billig’s remarks below.

Student data bill heard in House committee

Legislation that would enable Washington’s public institutions of higher education to receive basic contact information for graduating high school students in the state was heard in the House Education committee yesterday. SB 5593 would also have the colleges and universities report back to high schools where students enrolled in their postsecondary programs.

Currently, colleges and universities rely on data collected from students participating in certain standardized placement tests and exams. If enacted, the bill would require the state’s K-12 Coordinating body – the Office of Public Education Supervision (OSPI) – and the public universities and colleges to enter into data-sharing agreements. School districts would provide basic directory information about students graduating from their high schools which would allow the public 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities to share postsecondary opportunities with their students. Only half of the state’s high school graduates receive information from these opportunities. This effort, supported by WSU, would help students, who have been underrepresented in the college-going culture learn that postsecondary education is achievable and affordable.

The bill cleared the Senate last week and now awaits a vote by the Education committee.

Legislation allowing tuition rates to be realized sooner heard in House

A key metric that is used to calculate tuition rates would be made available earlier under Senate Bill 5079, heard in the House Postsecondary, Education and Workforce Development committee for the first time today.

The bill requires the state budget office, the Office of Financial Management, to communicate the maximum allowable increase in tuition to Washington’s public baccalaureates in October. Current law does not provide the calculation until March, delaying the time that university regents can determine the rate of tuition until May for an academic year that begins in August.

Collin Bannister, the legislative representative for ASWSU, testified in support of this bill during the hearing. He shared his story as a Pullman first generation student noting how this “good bill will truly help students.” He shared:

“As things currently are due to laws, students do not find out what their financial aid package is until after they have been fully accepted and likely graduated high school. Less than a year ago I, myself, was a senior at Pullman high school. As a first-generation student applying to college, the whole process was very confusing and there were many unknowns. The greatest of which being the cost and if I could afford to attend. I am not alone in my apprehension. The Washington round table found in a recent study that 63% of students listed the number one barrier to pursuing higher education as cost. If aid packages and costs are released sooner. This will give students the time they need to financially prepare. And in some cases, even discover that with aid, they actually can go to college.”

The bill moved unanimously out of the Senate 49-0 earlier last month. You can find Bannister’s remarks in full below.

Cougar Women’s Basketball team celebrated as conference champions by state Senate

State senators yesterday took a moment to recognize the WSU Women’s basketball team and their triumphant Pac-12 Conference Championship – a first in program history.

Senator Sam Hunt, a WSU alumnus, remarked that “This has been a historic week for WSU athletics. Yesterday, the WSU women won the Pac-12 conference basketball championship under the leadership of Kamie Ethridge – the coach who came in 4 years ago when they won 9 games, they have won 23 games now. They beat UCLA 65 to 61. And, a special shout out to Charlisse Leger-Walker who was the most valuable player in the tournament and Bella Murekatete who is just an amazing basketball player and leader, and it is great to wish them to best as they head to the NCAA tournament.”

Senator Mark Schoesler, whose district represents Pullman, added “…Last week, it was the first time that WSU women had beaten a top 3 ranked national opponent, Utah…”

Yesterday marked the 57th day of the 105-day 2023 legislative session. You can view Senator Hunt’s and Senator Schoesler’s remarks below:

WSU testifies on House climate resiliency work session

Climate change is going to drive meaningful impacts in agricultural productivity, WSU’s Chad Kruger recently told the state House Environment and Energy Committee.

Kruger, Director of the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources, revealed data comparing the current agricultural ecological zones in the Inland Northwest region to where they are projected to be mid-century. WSU researchers have presented wheat producers’ data to promote understanding of the anticipated changes, which include increased variability of crop yields.

Irrigation pattern changes are anticipated as well, Kruger told members of the committee meeting last week. “The focus is, if the future is not what the past was, we need better mechanisms to help our producers figure out what a resilient plan looks like.” Kruger further compared WSU’s findings to other areas in the nation that currently demonstrate a similar climate to the projection. “[Washington State] will look a lot more like the northern parts of California.” Kruger noted.

The House Environment and Energy Committee is considering several bills this session aimed at climate resiliency. Kruger’s full presentation to the committee can be viewed below.