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Eye On Olympia

Running the numbers on proposed WSU budget cuts: A big cut, yes, but not as bad as it seems…

If it’s possible to sound stunned in a prepared statement, Washington State University President Elson Floyd did so earlier today:

“Hard as it is to imagine, today’s House budget is even more draconian, with a more devastating impact, than the Senate budget proposed yesterday. Words are inadequate to describe the havoc this will wreak,” he says.

WSU is describing the latest budget plan as stripping away $151.4 million from the university, which would be a pretty astounding 29 percent cut.

But while the university makes a valid point about the state backing away from its support for higher education, it should also be noted that those scary numbers above don’t include $19.7 million in expected federal stimulus dollars for WSU. Nor do they include the $40.4 million the school is projected to get if it takes lawmakers’ advice and hikes tuition 10 percent a year for the next two years.

If you take those things into account, the state cut amounts to $91.2 million.

Still a big number, yes. To put it in perspective, WSU’s total budget for FY 2007-09 was $1.181 billion. Keeping things the same for the next two years is estimated to cost $1.240 billion. That’s what the cut numbers are based on.

Here’s what may make people at WSU feel a little better: The House budget would leave the university with $1.148 billion, or about $33 million less than it had in the last budget.

And while we’re at it, lets see how things look in the Senate budget proposal, released yesterday:
Proposed state cut: $104 million
Offset by federal stimulus dollars: minus $15.7 million
Offset more by 7 percent higher tuition: minus $28 million
Total: About $60 million cut.

WSU’s total 2007-2009 budget: $1.181 billion
Stay-the-course budget for the next two years: $1.240 billion
Senate total budget proposal: $1.179 billion

In other words, under the Senate plan, WSU’s total budget for the next two years would be just about what it was for the last two.

(Eastern Washington University folks: If you want a similar breakdown, shoot me an email or note it in the comments field below and I’ll post those numbers.)


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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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