Modest increases to the state’s budget are expected in the current and upcoming bienniums, announced the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council during a presentation of their November revenue forecast Monday morning. The current 2023-25 budget is projected to grow by $191 million, a 0.3 percent increase compared to the September forecast while the upcoming 2025-27 budget is projected to grow by $579 million or 0.8 percent.
The Council attributed growth to personal income and employment in Washington, which is slightly higher than forecasted in September. At the national level, the country’s gross domestic product growth is also stronger in 2023 and 2024 than anticipated in the prior forecast. Risks to the forecast included interest rates remaining high, armed conflicts, and slowing consumer demand.
The increase in the 2023-25 budget brings the baseline total to $66.9 billion, while the 2025-27 budget grows to a total of $71.5 billion.
This revenue forecast will inform the governor’s 2024 supplemental budget proposal, set to release next month ahead of the Legislature convening in January.
Members from the state’s higher education committees saw up close the innovative ways WSU is preparing the next generation of health professionals and the health services available to students during visits made to WSU’s Pullman and Spokane campuses earlier this month.
Over the course of two visits in four days, the two committees met with campus leaders and external partners to discuss how the university is serving rural, remote, and underserved communities through initiatives like the WSU family medicine residency at Pullman Regional Hospital and the Rural Health Initiative in the College of Pharmacy, which is seeking to recruit future pharmacists from rural communities to return graduates into these underserved areas.
The group also spent time touring the Center for Native American Health, where students across health science disciplines are being equipped with skills needed to engage with patients from marginalized and underrepresented backgrounds. At the WSU College of Nursing, members visited the Center for Experiential Learning, where they saw the simulation lab settings where students practice clinical skills in a realistic but controlled environment. These Centers allow students to operate in intense situations that they might face in clinical settings but make mistakes that they can learn from.
At WSU’s Cougar Health Services, members heard about the holistic suite of services available to students at Pullman’s student health care center. In addition to basic primary care, Cougar Health Services also provides students with access to counseling and psychological services for counseling as well as the Access Center to assist students in securing any accommodations they may need.
Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC) released its monthly collections report which showed that state tax revenue came in slightly lower than expected in the September revenue forecast, with revenue between October 11th through November 10th down $55.6 million or 2.2 percent. Combined with the October collections report, collections are cumulatively down $41.7 million or a percent from what was forecasted in September
The decrease was due in part to lower than anticipated property tax collections, which were down $15.3 million or 18.7 percent. A decrease was also experienced in Revenue Act collections – sales, business and occupation, and utility taxes – which came in $26.1 million or 1.3 percent lower than forecasted.
This collections report comes just before the next revenue forecast is set to be released on Monday, November 20th. The forecast will help inform the governor’s budget for the 2024 supplemental budget, set to be released next month ahead of the Legislature which convenes in January.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post contained a broken link to House Speaker Mike Johnson’s Dear Colleague letter. The link has been fixed. We apologize for any inconvenience.
This week, the House of Representatives elected Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) as the next Speaker of the House, following weeks of uncertainty after a federal shutdown was averted by passing a short-term continuing resolution.
Of note for WSU, the new Speaker has released a suggested timeline and path forward to begin the appropriations process for FY2024 funding—several strands of this funding impact our federally funded research and services meeting the needs of our state.
Proposed potential timeline
Under the current continuing resolution in place, Congress has until November 17 to pass all appropriations bills. Speaker Johnson has suggested another stopgap continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown, if needed, and fund the government through Jan. 15 (or potentially even through April 15), while Congress works through the appropriations process.
He suggested the following calendar for appropriations on the House Floor:
Week of October 23: Energy and Water
Week of October 30: Legislative Branch, Interior and Environment, Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development
Week of November 6: Financial Services and General Government, Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies
Week of November 13: Labor/Health and Human Services, Agriculture
In addition to the funding bills listed above, the Speaker has indicated he plans to move forward on reauthorization of the Farm Bill by December and consideration of the FAA reauthorization bill – both authorizing important programs for WSU.
WSU’s Office of Federal Relations continues to monitor the fluid situation and work closely with our elected officials and their offices in Washington, D.C. to ensure minimal disruption to WSU’s work.
In its October monthly update, the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council provided data that showed actual tax collections 0.7 percent or $13.8 million above what was forecasted in September.
This modest increase was driven by fines, fees, surcharges, and forfeitures from the Washington Court system. With $1 million collected, it came in 34.4 percent higher than expected. Lower than expected collections included payments from the motor vehicle and parts sector, which fell 1.3% year on year. Seven of the eleven retail trade sectors experienced negative year over year payment growth, with furniture and home furnishings experiencing the greatest drop (-11.1%), followed by building materials and garden equipment (-10.4%).
The next economic review will take place in early November, followed by a revenue forecast on November 26th, which will inform the governor’s 2024 supplemental budget proposal to the Legislature.
President Schulz posted the following statement on the potential for a shutdown of the federal government. If you need more information on how this may impact your federally funded research, please contact the Office of Research. If you have any other questions, please contact the Office of Federal Relations.
“As you may know, the federal fiscal year ends September 30 and Congress has not yet reached an agreement to provide any funding for federal agencies and the programs they support. Although I don’t anticipate major disruptions to WSU’s operations, I am working closely with our federal relations team in the Office of External Affairs and Government Relations and the WSU Office of Research to minimize, as much as possible, any potential impacts to federally funded activities at WSU. We must also be prepared for challenges that might arise should a more prolonged shutdown occur.
Our role and our mission as a land-grant institution transcends partisan lines. In meetings with our state’s Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., we have continued to advocate for a swift resolution. We are fortunate to have strong support from leaders across the delegation who understand the importance of federally funded research and services in meeting the needs of our state.
We’re also collaborating with our peers at other universities across the country and remain closely coordinated with professional organizations and associations to monitor any impacts to higher education.
Please know that we value your dedication to your work and remain committed to supporting all faculty, staff, and students during these uncertain times. While there will not be any disruptions to our student services and other essential university functions, I recognize there is a lot of uncertainty out there. If you are a researcher with federally funded projects, please review an email sent to the WSU Research Council from Matthew Michener last week. If you have specific questions about how a government shutdown might impact you or your project, please contact the federal relations team or the Office of Research. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates to the university community as we learn more.”
In their quarterly revenue review this morning, the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council adopted a forecast that anticipates a $664 million increase to the state’s current 2023-25 biennial budget. This September forecast now projects the state’s total budget to be at $66.7 billion. The forecast for the upcoming 2025-27 biennium also saw an increase of $437 million, bolstering the projected budget to $70.9 billion.
Growth in personal income, state interest rate earnings, and national GDP, along with historically low unemployment, drove the increase. A number of uncertainties continue to threaten the projected growth however, including rising interest rates, vacancies in the commercial real estate market, student loan repayment plans restarting, and a possible federal government shutdown.
The state also finished the last biennium with an increase of $265 million to the underlying 2021-23 biennium that concluded earlier this year on June 30th. Much of that increase is thanks to an unexpected increase in estate tax collections.
The next revenue forecast will be released on November 26th, which will inform the governor’s 2024 supplemental budget proposal to the Legislature to be released in mid-December.
University leaders, students, faculty, donors and public officials officially broke ground on Schweitzer Engineering Hall Friday afternoon on the Pullman campus.
Set for completion in 2026, the student-centered facility marks a rare equal partnership between the state and more than five dozen philanthropists, who are funding the $80 million facility equally. The largest donors include Edmund and Beatrize Schweitzer, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratory, and the Boeing Co. The Legislature included $40 million in the state’s capital budget signed by the governor this spring.
This modern facility will enable WSU to provide future generations of engineering and computer science students with functional meeting and collaboration space along with advising and tutoring in a single location. This project will also allow WSU to vacate and eventually demolish Dana Hall, which was constructed in 1949. This 90,000 square foot, 73-year-old hall has never been renovated and it lacks appropriate restroom facilities, fundamental ADA access for entering the building or moving between floors, amongst many other structural issues. It has an $18 million deferred maintenance backlog and is one of the highest energy consumers on the Pullman campus.
The agriculture industry faces growing threats from changing climate, extreme weather, water scarcity, and labor shortages and is looking to trusted partners like Washington State University for practical solutions.
A few of these innovative solutions involving groundbreaking artificial intelligence were on display in Washington, D.C. this week for an AI Research Institutes Congressional Showcase, organized by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
WSU leads the Institute for Agricultural AI for Transforming Workforce and Decision Support, commonly known as AgAID, launched in 2021 with support from NSF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The institute integrates researchers across the country from multiple disciplines to empower agriculture with trailblazing AI-tools to aid in decision-making and workforce development.
AgAID Director Dr. Ananth Kalyanaraman was joined by Ines Hanrahan, Ph.D, Executive Director of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission and Chair of AgAID’s External Advisory Board, for the trip to D.C.
In conversations with NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan and Senator Maria Cantwell, Dr. Kalyanaraman talked about how AgAID researchers harness the combined power of human and artificial intelligence in key areas related to perennial specialty crops and are developing predictive AI models that allow farmers to effectively predict and respond to extreme weather like frost and drought.
AgAID’s work was also on display at Senator Cantwell’s “Future of AI” convening in Seattle last month, where Sen. Cantwell praised WSU’s continued leadership around artificial intelligence in precision agriculture.
The group is continuing their work to find inclusive and user-friendly technologies to improve farm workers’ experience and productivity in the field in complex tasks such as tree-fruit pruning, harvesting and blossom thinning.
AgAID is also developing machine learning models to improve seasonal and long-term forecasting so that irrigation managers and farmers can better distribute scarce resources like water.
The researchers imagine a sustainable future in agriculture, where humans and AI work in harmony to feed a growing population and believe these innovations can be extended beyond high value specialty crops to address various agricultural challenges globally.
To learn more about WSU’s work on artificial intelligence, contact Jacob Dowd, Assistant Director of Federal Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A contingent of community college leaders toured the WSU Pullman campus this past Saturday, visiting with campus leadership to discuss partnerships in academia and student support services between the two year colleges and WSU. The day culminated at the WSU football game where the group watched the Cougs best the Northern Colorado Bears, scoring 64-21.
The visit began at the Ida Lou Anderson House, where WSU Pullman Chancellor Elizabeth Chilton welcomed the group to campus before the group worked its way up campus on a tour led by WSU Interim Vice President for Government Relations, Chris Mulick.
Along the tour, the group stopped in at Spokane Falls Community College’s (SFCC) Pullman campus. It showcased the unique collaboration of a two year college being located on WSU Pullman’s physical footprint. Kevin Brockbank, Chancellor of the Community Colleges of Spokane of which the SFCC campus is a part of, described how students at the SFCC campus access resources located at WSU such as advising services to help them transition more seamlessly between the two schools.
At the Compton Union Building, the group met with the Dean of Students, Jennifer Hyatt, and other campus leaders in student affairs for a roundtable discussion on how community colleges and WSU can support students from underrepresented backgrounds as they transition from one institution to another.