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UW Faculty Thanks State Legislature

Untitled-1Huskies husky diploma UWGreetings,

This will be my final message regarding the 2015 legislative sessions: one regular session and three special sessions that created the longest number of days in session in the history of the state:  176 days.  Higher education became one of the most pressing points of negotiation in the final days:  all roads led to funding higher education more fully, and the issue was how to provide the funding.

But ultimately, these 176 days resulted in one of the best budgets in memory for the University of Washington, with $119 million of new funding appropriated to the UW, a 23.8% increase over the 2013-15 biennium; this increase includes funding for salary increases, a tuition reduction for resident undergraduates, and many specific items that are noted in the attachments.  This now makes four years in a row that the state has not only increased the UW budget, but has backfilled the lost state investment of 2007-13; our goal now, as President Cauce has said recently, is to sustain this reinvestment.  Legislators discovered substantial local support in their districts for their reinvestment of 2013-15, and now are getting considerable national attention for being the first state to make a substantial reinvestment of state funding through the tuition reduction for 2015-17.

If you do not have time to read the attached documents, here are three global observations about the 2015 Legislature and the UW:

First, what is presented as a tuition freeze or reduction to the public is understood by legislators as reinvesting in higher education, to remedy the cuts that had been made during the recession of 2007-13.  While the public understands this reinvestment as a tuition reduction for 2015-17, the Legislature views it as restoring its responsibility to balancing the state subsidy to public colleges and universities.

Second, I have never seen so much legislative support for higher education as has developed in Olympia leading up to this session.  We are very fortunate not only in the budgetary funding, but also in the policy support of our Legislature for our academic mission — the levels of appreciation continues to increase regarding the discovery and excellence of the University of Washington. The Legislature has deeply engaged with and committed to higher education for 2015-17, making it a top priority for funding; this continued the reinvestment it began to make in 2013-15, now in a more dramatic manner. It is rewarding to see how our legislators bring to the discussion their own range of experience of undergraduate and advance degrees from liberal arts institutions and the leading public and private research universities in the country.  Our legislators have backgrounds as Rhodes Scholars, K-12 teachers, university faculty; and in business, farm industry, the military, and technology fields. This blend of professional interests, combined with the breadth of their educational experiences, makes many different components of the UW vitally significant to them.

Finally, to reiterate some appreciation I note in the attachment, many hands, many minds, and many months of preparation led to this outcome. Setting budget priorities began back in 2013 with Jim Gregory (History) leading the Senate Committee on Planning and Budgeting during the budget proposal process, handing the the committee on to Jack Lee (Mathematics) for 2014-15.  Kate O’Neill (Law) will begin the budget process for 2017-19 in September when she becomes the chair of the committee.  It was quite surprising to find ourselves with a new president and provost a few weeks into the legislative session, and remarkable to watch how our interim President Cauce and interim Provost Baldasty did not miss a single beat in stepping into the middle of the rushing river that is the legislative session.  Genesee Adkins is our new director of state relations and our constant presence in Olympia, along with her associate director Patrick Bell.  We owe them, Ana Mari, and Jerry considerable thanks for their relentless efforts to track the interests of the UW in the multiple sessions and record number of budget proposals.  Also, many of our faculty colleagues came to Olympia to testify and talk to legislators in hearings; thank you for bringing your deep professional expertise to the legislative process when invited.

If you have a few minutes, please write to your legislators to thank them for supporting higher education so profoundly for 2015-17.  You can find their direct email addresses at:

http://leg.wa.gov/LIC/Documents/Rosters/2015_Member_Pictorial_Directory.pdf

I am very pleased at this result, at all the collaboration, and that this session is finally over.

Best wishes, JoAnn Taricani, Faculty Legislative Representative


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