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The 2007 Legislative Sessions and Its Impact on CAHNRS

Posted by | May 14, 2007

With the wrap-up of the 2007 legislative session, the WSU administration is busy digging through the legislation to assess what this means for the university over the next two years. Overall, this was the best budget WSU has experienced in many years, most notably due to the governor’s unwavering focus on education.

You will likely hear from some people that while the budget is one of the best in terms of percentage increase in total funding, that most of the funds are “earmarked” (meaning that the funds are designated for specific uses). While it is true that most new funds are targeted for a specific use, this is exactly why the university was so successful in increasing its overall budget. If there is one thing that I have learned in working in the legislative dimension of this position, it is that policy makers fund programs that are important to them (and their constituencies). We must look for the intersection of our priorities and theirs because, quite frankly, our priorities are not relevant. A case in point is the university’s failed attempts to gain “core funding” in past sessions.

Of course, the item of greatest significance to CAHNRS was the Unified Industry-Based Agriculture Initiative. Most know that this $10.8 million request was funded at $6 million. Were we successful? Well, as I have stated repeatedly, “the good news is that we achieved the largest infusion of new funds to WSU Agriculture Programs in several decades, and the bad news is that we achieved the largest infusion of new funds to WSU Agriculture Programs in several decades!” So, while we obtained less than 60 percent of our goal, this was an ambitious and unprecedented goal. Of equal importance to the magnitude of the funding is the type of funds appropriated. Unlike many past allocations, much of this funding is authorized for spending on operating funds, as opposed to the positions (i.e., salaries and benefits). Included in the allocation is $1 million per year to distribute via competitive internal grants on emerging areas in the state’s food and agriculture sector. A final important outcome of this effort was that WSU and the food and agriculture industry was able to demonstrate that they could put together a unified coalition in support of agricultural research and hold this coalition together throughout the legislative session. This did not go unnoticed in Olympia and should bode well for future endeavors.

The Fueling Washington with Bioproducts Initiative provides two million dollars for “a pool of funds that WSU and the WSDA will jointly target to applied research on technology and cropping systems for more efficiently growing oilseed and other energy crops, and converting them to fuel.” Obviously, CAHNRS and ARC will provide most of the effort to address this priority.

Two other important outcomes were the passing of the 3.2 percent (FY-08) and 2.0 percent (FY-09) salary increases, without self-funding $10 million through tuition (as proposed in the Senate’s version of the budget), as well as $150,000 of operating funds for the grizzly bear program.