Eye On Olympia

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13, 2005, 10:06 A.M.

Giving it the old college try…

Washington State University supporters tried Wednesday morning to tack an amendment onto the House construction budget to fund WSU's top priority: a $57 million biotech research center in Pullman.

"We are, I think, making a tremendous error in this budget in not funding the bio/life-sciences building at Washington State," Rep. Fred Jarrett, R-Mercer Island, told his fellow committee members.

Rep. Don Cox, R-Colfax, said that lawmakers had asked WSU to put together a list of its construction priorities -- and that the biotech building was at the top of WSU's list.

"I think our obligation would be to honor the list that they developed," Cox said. "...These research facilities are just vital to the success of our research universities."

But WSU, which scored an unusual victory last year, wringing tens of millions of dollars from Olympia in what would normally be an off-year for such big projects, was supposed to list that project -- the Riverpoint academic center -- as its top priority this year. WSU says it did, but it was nowhere to be found on the joint list submitted by the state's six colleges and universities to the Legislature.

"We gave them that priority last year, and it should have been listed," said Rep. Bill Eickmeyer, D-Belfair.

"We have limited funds, we have many needs," said Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish. "We're trying to build an entire state and we must distribute our resources."

The amendment failed. WSU now must pin its hopes for funding this year on joint budget negotiations between the House and Senate, which must agree on a final construction budget.

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