Dear Commons Community,
The Arizona Legislature agreed Saturday to a budget that reduces state spending for higher education by about 14 percent, or $99 million. The budget scales back funding for the state’s flagship universities, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, and eliminates state money completely for several community colleges. The office of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) said that the reductions were necessary to shrink the state’s budget deficit. As reported in The Huffington Post:
“We can’t spend money that doesn’t exist and that we don’t have,” Gov. Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato told HuffPost. “When faced with a $1.5 billion budget deficit, [Ducey] happens to think that it’s a good idea for the state budget to be balanced. He ran on that.”
The governor could sign the budget as soon as next week.
The legislature finally passed the budget package 16-13 Saturday morning — after what the Arizona Republic called a “nightlong marathon” — and just three days after Ducey unveiled his proposal to the GOP in closed-door meetings.
Some lawmakers complained they didn’t have enough time to review the bills, while several moderate Republicans argued the cuts to higher ed went too far.
State Democrats expressed frustration with Ducey’s budget.
“Very conservative members are happy that this is the most fiscally conservative budget they have seen during their time here,” state Sen. Katie Hobbs (D) told HuffPost.
Since the recession began in 2007, Arizona has dramatically reduced funding for public universities. According to funding data compiled by the Center for American Progress, Arizona decreased funding for higher education by over 32 percent during the recession, a larger percentage than any other state. Over the past several years, tuition rose more than any other state while spending per student dropped.
Public universities in other states (Louisiana, Wisconsin, Illinois) are also facing historic potential funding reductions. Decreased state revenues during the recession resulted in massive cuts to public universities nationwide, but beginning in 2012, most states began to pump money back into universities.
Bucking the trend, several Republican governors are now attempting to lower deficits by targeting university appropriations. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker wants to curtail spending on public universities by $300 million over two years, the deepest reduction in state history. Democratic legislators in neighboring Illinois are fighting Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed $387 million cut to higher education, while Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is considering eliminating a dozen tax refunds that mostly benefit businesses, a plan would still leave the state’s public universities $211 million below last year’s funding levels.
Universities in Arizona, Wisconsin, Illinois and Louisiana are bracing for outcomes ranging from hiring freezes and increased reliance on adjunct professors to layoffs and future mergers and closures of schools. “