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Posts tagged: colleges

Thousands of teachers laid off? A look at the House budget and “trickle-down pain”…

A day after the Senate, House lawmakers proposed a budget plan that cuts much deeper into higher education but spares K-12 education from some major cuts.

The House plan would strip $683 million from colleges, even while raising tuition at four-year schools 10 percent a year.

“We are asking them to take the biggest cut” despite the fact that the schools are engines of innovation and worker retraining, said Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton. “They will have to do the hardest work to figure out how to get through these tough times. But I know they can do it.”

The Senate plan, which would cut $513 million, is estimated to mean 2,500 fewer higher education jobs. House officials wouldn’t put a number on their proposal, saying they would leave it to the individual colleges to meet budget targets.

As for K-12 schools, the House would cut $625 million, compared to the Senate’s deeper $877 million in cuts. Much of that money would come from a voter-approved measure designed to shrink class sizes by hiring more teachers.

But even under the House plan, Haigh predicted, many teachers will lose their jobs.
“If we can keep other funds whole,” she said, “maybe we won’t lose more than 3- or 4,000 teachers.”

A top Senate budget writer, Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, also estimates that 2,000 state workers will lose their jobs.

“This is not a very pleasant day for any of us,” said House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler.
Lawmakers will spend the next few weeks agreeing on a final plan.

State spending would still rise

Both budgets total about the same: $32.3 billion, compared to the $33.7 billion budget approved two years ago. That doesn’t include $2 billion to $3 billion more in expected federal help. And both the House and Senate budget would reduce state pension payments by hundreds of millions of dollars and use millions more in long-term construction dollars to support the operating budget.
In other words, the state will still be spending significantly more in this budget than in the last one.

“We now know where the Enron accountants turned up: writing this budget,” said Rep. Doug Erickson, R-Bellingham, criticizing the fact that that the federal aid wasn’t included in the budget.

“Today we got the status quo,” said Erickson, indicating the House budget. “We’re going to borrow more, we’re going to spend more, and we’re going to pass the debt on to our kids.”

He and other Republicans say the budget crisis was a chance for long-term spending reforms, but that majority Democrats resisted that. Over the past 4 years, state spending rose $8 billion. Republicans argue that the state must overhaul state spending to ease the burden on taxpayers and businesses.

“It’s really hard to imagine people who are having difficulty meeting payroll in their small businesses, and yet our state employees have one of the richest health care plans that’s out there,” said Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor. “I find that just amazing.”

House budget writers said Tuesday that they tried to preserve basic education and the state’s social safety net, as well as state-subsidized health insurance for kids.

Taxpayers are likely to be asked for a tax increase to help avoid some of the cuts, said Rep. Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham. But what tax and how much have yet to be worked out.

Wherever possible, Haigh said, lawmakers want to set a budget amount and let school districts, state agencies and colleges figure out the best way to meet it. Many wanted that flexibility, lawmakers said.

“There was trickle-down economics,” said Haigh. “Well, this is trickle-down pain.”

UPDATE: Local higher-ed breakout:

How the House and Senate budgets would affect local universities:

Locally, Eastern Washington University would fare about the same under either plan, with about an 18.5 percent cut from what it would cost to maintain current programs. Washington State University would lose 17 percent to 18 percent. The deepest cuts under either budget would be at the University of Washington, which would lose $134 million under the House plan.

Higher ed: Cut us and it’ll cost ya…

Go to any budget committee in Olympia and it will quickly become apparent that the near-universal argument for anyone seeking state money is this:

“Spend on this worthy program now. You’ll save money down the road.”

At the moment, some of the bigger voices in this chorus come from the state’s colleges. The state Higher Education Coordinating Board on Thursday released a report saying, in essence, that the colleges should be spared severe cuts because they’re so valuable. It’s title: “The Benefits of Investing in Higher Education: A Return on Investment.”

The board, recalling previous downturns, is clearly trying to head off deep cuts combined with big tuition hikes.

Eollege-educated people earn more money, pay more taxes, commit less crime, volunteer more and vote more, the HEC Board notes. Parents without a college degree, it says, use food stamps and welfare more. The colleges also “serve as incubators for growth and innovation” and provide a steady supply of trained workers, the report says.

Instead of cuts, the study suggests that the state should put more money into colleges now. The federal government, through the G.I. Bill, poured money and students into schools in 1946, at a time when the nation feared a fall into recession.

And it’s not just the graduating students. The report pointedly notes that Eastern Washington University’s payroll, for example, means $77 million in spending in Spokane County. (2004 figures.)

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

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