The state Attorney General’s office gave a quick response Wednesday to a question state Sen. Pam Roach, R- Auburn, asked this week about whether state university and college tuition rates must be approved by the Legislature.
At issue is whether Initiative 1185, the voter-approved initiative that requires a two-thirds vote to raise taxes, requires the state Legislature to approve tuition rates. And the answer is yes — in a letter to Roach, Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Even wrote that I-1185 has the same effect as its predecessor, I-1053, which requires legislative approval for an increase in public tuition rates, although “that legislative approval could take any number of potential forms.”
“The good news is that with this, thanks to voters approving it, the only way tuition is going up is if the Legislature chooses to vote for it,” said Tim Eyman, the sponsor of I-1185.
But University of Washington officials say they have sought, and received, legislative approval to raise tuition rates for several years now. The governing bodies at state schools vote on a tuition amount for the next year, and the tuition increases are later written into the state budget, which is then approved by the Legislature, said Margaret Shepherd, director of state relations for the UW. “We don’t see any change from current practice,” she said.
Eyman said he thinks the Legislature won’t give the universities that latitude this year. “In this tug of war, the last tug was the voters,” he said. “The Legislature has the authority to set tuition. They would be foolish to give it back.”