Washington House Releases Biennial Budget, Holds Line on Higher Education

Today the Washington State House released a proposed biennial operating budget for the 2013-15 biennium.

In a press conference Representative Ross Hunter, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee highlighted the investments in education and critical services to Washington citizens proposed in the House budget.

Overall the proposed budget addresses the state’s $3.4 billion budget problem through policy enhancements, fund transfers, reduced spending, and increased resources.

The House proposal makes $2 billion in additional policy enhancements, the majority of which are in K-12 ($1.4 billion). Among the investments made include:

  • $986 million to K-12 to fund increased materials, supplies, and operating costs; reduce early elementary class size (K-3); fund pupil transportation and instructional hours.
  • $87 million for postsecondary education financial aid
  • $41 million for Early Childhood Education Assistance Program enhancements
  • $146 million for home care worker compensation
  • $25 million for debt service on anticipated new capital projects

These enhancements as well as the other parts of the budget are funded through a combination of savings, reduced spending, and increased resources.

  • $757 million in fund transfers including $575 million from the Budget Stabilization Account
  • $1.3 billion in reduced spending
  • $1.3 billion in increased resources

The House proposal leaves $337 million in projected total reserves.

Higher Education

The House proposal makes an investment in higher education that moves in the right direction. The budget provides $11 million in targeted funding for state instructional support and $12 million to support biofuels and clean energy programs.

The proposed budget assumes a  3% tuition increase for The Evergreen State College, Eastern Washington University, Central Washington University and the Community and Technical Colleges; and a 5% tuition increase for Western Washington University, Washington State University, and the University of Washington.

Finally the budget makes an investment in financial aid including the College Bound Scholarship program and the State Need Grant.

The House proposal continues the suspension of some small state financial aid programs from 2011-13 including suspension of Washington Scholars, WAVE, Health Professional Scholarships, and Future Teacher Scholarships.

Evergreen

For Evergreen the House’s proposed budget would allow tuition for undergraduate residents to increase by 3% per year of the biennium. The College may increase tuition beyond this level but would be required to invest in institutional financial aid.

In addition the budget appropriates $1.157 million for the purpose of instructional support. These funds include $752,000 from the proposed maintenance level appropriated to the College and $405,000 in additional funds to support this effort. Evergreen is required to provide a report by September 1, 2014 that provides the specific details on how these amoutnes were spent in the preceding fiscal year and any process changes or best-practices implemented in the College.

Finally, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, a public service center of Evergreen, is funded to support a comprehensive study of the financial incentives promoting distributed generation in Washington.

Next Steps

The House is scheduled to hold an executive session on the proposed biennial operating budget on Thursday afternoon followed by a vote on the floor on either Friday or Saturday.

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