State budget expected to preserve UW gains

UW officials are generally pleased over the shape of the 1991-93 state budget, which they feel will preserve most of the gains made in previous sessions, though it does not add many new programs.

Speaking before a final budget was passed, UW Government Relations Director Bob Edie said the UW had three goals during the crucial session in Olympia. First, the University wanted to restore the reductions made by the governor’s original budget request, which would have reduced UW funding by 6 percent.

In addition, the UW hoped to have a generous capital budget for new construction, plus the approval to start new degree programs at the branch campuses. “We substantially met all of these goals,” Edie said. “We were able to protect most of the improvements made over the last four years.”

Although this issue of Columns went to press before the close of the session, Edie and Government Relations Associate Director Sheral Burkey were able to describe the basic outline of state support for the University.

Due to the pressures of population growth, the legislature is planning to raise enrollment lids at community colleges and universities, including adding space during the day at the UW. This is the first time since 1979 that the daytime student population will grow, providing more space for students who had previously been turned away from the Seattle campus.

Though there will be more students, the University is not expected to get all of the funding it needs to cover inflation and other “carry-forward” costs. Edie said there will be some belt tightening.

The UW’s top priority was funding faculty salaries. It appears that the state will award salary increases in the range of 7 to 8 percent over the two years of the budget, far less than the 25.4 percent originally requested by the UW. Though the state has granted significant salary increases in the past, the average professor’s pay still lags 11.2 percent behind the goal—reaching the 75th percentile of salaries at peer institutions.

The brightest spot in the session is the capital budget, Edie and Burkey explained. The state will likely fund both a $65-million physics and astronomy building, to be built at the northeast corner of 15th Avenue N.E. and N.E. Pacific Street, plus a $20-million addition to the UW’s power plant.

“This excellent capital budget follows previous budgets that funded a new library, a new chemistry building and new health sciences facilities,” Edie said. He and Burkey felt the message about the University’s deteriorating campus has finally gotten through.

Despite some threats during the session, the legislature is planning to continue funding both the Tacoma and the Bothell branch campuses and to add new students. Each is expected to offer at least two new degree programs. Coming on top of the general studies B.A. offered at each campus, the new programs in nursing, education and engineering should attract more students to the branches, which have not met enrollment targets.