New State Budget Boosts Higher Education

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University officials say they are “extremely
pleased” with the legislature’s 1999-2001 budget. Lawmakers concluded their session Sunday
with a budget package that includes money for salary increases, expanded enrollment, research,
instructional technology and new facilities.
Gov. Gary Locke is expected to sign the budget that provides a total of $32.05 million in new
operating money to WSU over the next two years. The budget also provides $137.5 million for
building construction and facilities maintenance system-wide.
Gretchen Bataille, WSU provost and academic vice president, said the budget addresses the
most pressing concerns of the university. “Faculty salaries have been our top priority in Olympia
and we are very pleased that there will be a pay increase,” said Bataille. “The legislature has also
helped us respond to the issue of recruiting and retaining high quality faculty and professional
The two-year budget includes money for salary increases that average three percent
beginning July 1. Another pool of $2.9 million has been set aside for faculty recruitment and
retention purposes.
Enrollment increases are funded at Pullman, Spokane and Vancouver campuses, increasing
the total number of students by 686 during the biennium.
Instructional technology funding includes money for programs to support
technology-assisted course delivery at remote locations. Funding is also in place for learning
centers in Skagit County, Walla Walla and Grays Harbor.
Two major research initiatives have been funded. Lawmakers provided $4.25 million for
WSU’s Safe Food Initiative. SFI is expected to reduce pesticide use, improve food production
efficiency and enhance food safety from farm to table. Funding will be used for SFI programs in
the Colleges of Agriculture and Home Economics, Veterinary Medicine, and Sciences.
Another $1.5 million has been allocated for the Advanced Technology Initiative. WSU is
exploring the use of a portion of the funding for a combined research team with the University of
Washington. The team would develop precision agriculture and forestry techniques. Other ATI
projects may include research into reproductive biology at WSU Pullman and Spokane, or
semi-conductor research at WSU Vancouver.
On the Pullman campus, $28.9 million will construct a new Teaching and Learning Center
facility. At WSU Vancouver, funding is approved for construction of a $27 million Engineering
and Life Sciences building.
A settlement with the state, over land grant trust fund monies owed to WSU, will provide
$36.3 million for a new Health Sciences Center at WSU Spokane. Existing health programs from
WSU Spokane and from Eastern Washington University will be housed in the new facility.
One of the disappointments of the session is that the legislature did not provide funding for
a proposed Health Sciences Consortium in Spokane. WSU officials say efforts to obtain funding
for it in the future will continue.