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UW capital planning and employee compensation make Gov. Inslee’s proposed budget

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In this new proposed budget for 2019-2021, Gov. Jay Inslee has included significant funding for the UW campus and its employees, along with his proposed investments in higher education and the state’s behavioral health system.

Capital plan

Inslee’s capital proposal includes fully funding construction of the new Health Sciences Education Building. At $70 million, this is the university’s largest capital construction request.

“This facility will provide a much-needed collaborative learning space for our six health sciences schools and will also serve as a critical hub for health care professionals to receive ongoing education in their respective fields, including behavioral health care,” Joe Dacca, UW director of state relations, said.

Other capital budget requests on the UW’s agenda were not included in the governor’s proposal. Funding for a new STEM building at the UW Bothell, a $35 million ask; design funds for the UW Tacoma and college of engineering, $4 million and $5 million respectively; as well as a $1 million pre-design request for the Magnuson Health Sciences Center, were not included.

“We will now focus on communicating those needs to legislative leaders in Olympia,” Dacca said of the requests that did not make Inslee’s proposal.

One proposal of the governor’s which was not among the university’s requests is pre-design funding for a new teaching hospital for the UW department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

Maintenance on current facilities on all three UW campuses is funded by the state through the UW building account. The governor’s proposal met the university’s request in three areas: $47 million for minor works, $25 million for preventative facility maintenance, and $15 million for seismic improvements for major infrastructure projects. The UW lost state funding for seismic improvement projects following the 2008 recession and had to shift from larger to smaller-scale renovations.

Employee compensation

Employee compensation has been a point of conflict for the university recently, spurring threats of strikes among its unionized employees and complicating recruitment of new faculty and professional staff. To combat these issues, the university requested a four percent compensation increase in fiscal years (FY) 2020 and 2021, and “that collective bargaining agreements with our valued represented UW workforce be approved and appropriately funded.”

The four percent increase would be greater than that achieved in recent years. The state approved a two percent increase for FY18 and two two percent increases in FY19, the latter of which the UW claims they cannot implement for three main reasons according to their decision package sent to the state Office of Financial Management:

“1) Our students continue to migrate to higher cost degree programs, while the University is receiving the same amount of tuition revenue and state support.

2) The University’s operating costs are being driven upwards by other student trends, including increased demand for support services and fewer students taking less expensive, lower-division classes (due to the proliferation of IB, AP, and other programs at the high school level).

3) The high cost of living in the Seattle region and competition from other top national research universities create expensive, problematic recruitment and retention issues.”

The full wage increase is contingent on state funding. In the last biennium, the UW requested four percent wage increases, but the state only provided partial funding for the smaller increases in FY18 and FY19. As a result of insufficient funding, the UW was unable to offer wage increases for faculty and professional staff at the levels requested, according to Jed Bradley, assistant director of policy, planning, and state operations at the UW office of planning and budgeting (OPB).

“The Governor’s budget provides $17.3 million over the biennium to partially cover the cost of 3 percent wage increases for faculty and staff in FY20 and FY21,” according to the OPB’s brief on the governor’s budget proposal. The UW’s request, which would have fully funded four percent increases with state funds, totaled $70.8 million.

The UW’s collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) were submitted for the governor’s approval by Oct. 1 for each of the required unions except the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) 1488 and 3488, which voted to reject the university’s offer.

The contracts include a two percent general wage increase across the board. This increase is guaranteed for workers, but the university has requested it be funded by the state, which the governor’s proposed budget only does partially. The CBAs also include paid family and medical leave, among other provisions, some specific to each union.

The contract agreements submitted to the governor’s office also include a provision for an additional two percent locality adjustment that would be provided to workers “if and only if the state provides full funding” for the guaranteed two percent increase, according to Becka Johnson Poppe, director of policy, planning and state relations at the OPB.

The OPB is still analyzing and considering the governor’s proposals regarding represented employees as the university approaches the legislative session in which the budget will be written and finalized.

Dacca named securing fair compensation as the top operating budget priority of the UW in this legislative session. The area’s rising cost of living, retention, and recruitment of faculty and staff are the reasons cited for needing the state to increase its contribution.

“The Governor’s budget includes significant new investments on this front,” Dacca said. “But we have more work to do with the legislature to ensure that all of our employees can keep up with the cost of living in our region.”

Reach legislative reporter Devon McBride at Twitter: @DevonM98

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