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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

WALeg Day 45: House budget writers question med school costs

OLYMPIA -- House budget writers struggled with the costs of training more doctors to serve parts of the state as a bill to let Washington State University start a Spokane medical school continued the long path through the hearing process.

WSU officials said they continue to support University of Washington's multi-state training program, known as WWAMI, although they think the state needs a second medical school. UW officials say they don't oppose WSU efforts provided WWAMI receives the $4.9 million to train the 40 medical students due to start in Spokane in August. 

The two universities ended their partnership over WWAMI -- which stands for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho, the five states in the system -- last fall and are still negotiating how to divide money and other assets assigned to the Riverpoint campus. Legislators have warned recently that they will settle the dispute if the universities don't.

"Of course we're trying to negotiate, but ultimately it's your decision," Ian Goodhew, a representative of UW Medicine told the House Appropriations Committee.

But the bill before the committee has no price tag attached, and budget analysts could only say cost estimates vary for what would happen if the Legislature removed a state law that says only the University of Washington can operate a state-sponsored medical school. That would allow WSU to move forward with plans to seek accreditation for a new medical school.

It really just starts a conversation on how to increase medical education in Spokane, Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, said.

"It's an outdated law that created a monopoly," Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane said, adding he supports expanding WWAMI in Spokane as well as starting the new medical school

But the law, that dates to 1917, creates several monopolies for the universities, including veterinary medicine for WSU.

"Why aren't we just getting rid of the entire statute and getting rid of all the monopolies?" Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle, asked.

That's beyond the scope of this particular bill, Riccelli said.

Committee Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said he'd like to see more budget figures before the panel votes on the bill.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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