State Capitol News
2:28 am
Fri March 27, 2009

Higher education cuts may be restored

Phoenix, AZ – State legislators will have to restore at least 150 million
dollars in cuts they just made to higher education to keep from
losing more than 800 million in federal education stimulus
dollars. Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer explains.


In January lawmakers took $150 million from universities and
community colleges to deal with a $1.6 billion deficit. That plan
also included $500 million in federal stimulus funds. And
lawmakers are counting on more from Washington, including $832
million earmarked for education. But new draft rules from the
U.S. Department of Education require states to use those dollars
to bring funding up to what it was before -- and keep it there
for three years. Legislative budget staffers put the figure at
$160 million a year. The rules surprised lawmakers who had
proposed cutting another $40 million from higher education. But
Paul Senseman, press aide to Gov. Jan Brewer, said his boss is
not upset, even though it complicates balancing the budget.

(The governor sees this as an opportunity some critical funding
to the universities, the federal stimulus dollars. Does it make
it challenging to balancing the 2010 budget? The governor has
said all along we have a very challenging problem that she's
inherited and we're going to face that challenge head-on. With
her five-point plan we think we can accommodate that challenge.)

But one element of her plan involves a temporary tax to raise a
billion dollars a year -- a plan that has yet to gain traction
with her Republican colleagues in the Legislature.