Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Proposed higher ed cuts could be avoided through revenue measures suggested by Governor

With the Legislature set to begin work next Monday on fixes to the state budget, Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday offered a supplemental budget proposal that would cut additional millions in state support for higher education and suspend funding for the State Work Study (SWS) program during FY 2012.
The Governor’s plan for responding to a projected $1.4 billion revenue shortfall for the remainder of the biennium also would cut additional millions from K-12, health and human services, and corrections.
While the Governor’s budget proposal assumes no new sources of revenue, she acknowledged that program cuts of the magnitude she is proposing “would do serious damage to the state’s safety net and jeopardize our students’ future.” Therefore, she asked the Legislature to consider approving or asking voters to approve a number of revenue-generating options, including a public vote on a temporary half-cent increase in the state sales tax. That would raise an additional $494 million through June 30, 2013.
Among other things, the additional sales tax money would be used to prevent an additional $160 million reduction in state support for the state’s six public four-year colleges and universities, and 34 community and technical colleges. 
Other potential revenue-generating options would restore additional cuts based upon a priority list offered by the Governor. The list includes restoration of approximately $8 million for the SWS program.
Suspending the SWS program would mean that approximately 3,500 low- and middle-income college students in Washington would lose annual paychecks averaging $3,000—money they use to pay their college expenses. Nearly 2,000 Washington employers would be forced to look for other ways to make up for the loss of productivity they generated by SWS employees.
The HECB has posted additional information about the impacts of suspending the SWS program.

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