Elson S. Floyd, Ph.D. - 2/11/10
As the current session of the Legislature moves forward — a session that will produce decisions vital to the future of our university — I plan to continue to use this and other forums to provide updates on issues affecting Washington State University.
On Tuesday (2/9), the Senate Ways and Means Committee gave overwhelming approval to Senate Bill 6562, which would provide limited tuition-setting authority to the Boards of Regents of Washington State University and the University of Washington and to the Board of Trustees of Western Washington University.
I have testified in support of this bill because I believe our system for funding higher education in Washington needs fundamental reform. While this bill is not perfect — and we plan to continue to seek improvements in it as it moves through the legislative process — the Ways and Means Committee approval is a significant step. There is a growing understanding in Olympia that our state must try new funding approaches. Our current strategies simply are not working.
A more complete discussion of my position on this issue can be found at http://president.wsu.edu/perspectives/012610.html
To update you on another matter I discussed last week, there is little new to report on the potential threat to $26 million in state money that goes largely to fund agricultural research at WSU. That is good news. Most lawmakers understand the importance of agriculture research to our state’s economic present and future. Certainly, the representatives of agricultural commodity groups who depend on WSU research strongly support the continuance of that funding.
However, we will remain vigilant on this issue. I fully understand the difficulties that our lawmakers face in closing this huge budget gap. As the clock ticks down toward adjournment, I expect that they will be looking at every feasible alternative. We must continue to send the message that cutting agricultural research funding would have enormous negative consequences.
As a university president, I often have been deeply involved in difficult legislative sessions. I must say that this is the most difficult one I can remember. The issues are large; the time is short. The targeted date of adjournment is March 11. In the meantime, the budget process will be impacted by new revenue forecasts and new estimates of the costs of caseload-driven programs, in social services, corrections and other areas.
The situation is fluid and evolving. We will continue to do our best to protect our university’s interests in Olympia while not losing sight of our ongoing educational, research and public service missions statewide.