Saturday, March 7, 2015

Legislature Passes Budget; Universities Still Screwed But At Least a Community College Will Receive Some Money

Posted By on Sat, Mar 7, 2015 at 1:34 PM

click to enlarge Arizona universities will have to absorb $99 million in cuts. - MARIA INÉS TARACENA
  • Maria Inés Taracena
  • Arizona universities will have to absorb $99 million in cuts.

By 8 a.m. this morning, and after nearly 24 hours of debate, the state Legislature passed a $9.1 billion state budget that still greatly screws over universities, but that at least is giving some funds to community colleges and scratched a mandate to K-12 schools asking to cut 5 percent of their non-classroom money.

Universities are losing $99 million instead of the $104 million we heard of earlier this week, Joint Technical Education Districts are getting $30 million in cuts. Pima and Maricopa community colleges lost all state aid—a combined $15.6 million in cuts—while Pinal will get $2 million. 

This is what state Sen. Steve Farley had to say about K-12 in his Farley Repor:
K-12 schools will suffer from a $352 million cut in district assistance and other areas, and TUSD is singled out for another $17 million hit starting this coming fiscal year, which will be shared by Pima County, likely leading to higher property taxes for Pima County residents along with cuts. The exact portion of the cuts/tax hikes will be apportioned by an unelected Property Tax Oversight Committee based in Phoenix. The inflation funding lawsuit settlement, which the courts have set at around $332 million, was funded at only $74 million. And $900 million in K-12 rollovers remain, a budgeting gimmick used years ago that has still not been paid back. This means that public schools are receiving their state funds not in advance, but as reimbursement — 90 days in arrears. 

Many state lawmakers said the decision was rushed and carried out without much opportunity for public input.

Democratic state Rep. Eric Meyer of Paradise Valley released this statement:
“The Republicans made sure the budget process was quick and provided little opportunity for public comment. Despite this effort, hundreds of teachers, students, parents and concerned citizens came to the Capitol to deliver a clear message. This budget is bad for education and jeopardizes our economic stability.

“Instead of listening to the people they represent, Republicans have chosen to perpetuate the education funding shell game which prioritizes special interest tax cuts and corporate giveaways over the needs of middle-class families. They’re slashing more than $100 million from higher education. Those cuts include eliminating all state support for the largest community colleges. These policies are irresponsible and shortsighted. Without a solid education and access to affordable higher education, Arizona kids won’t be ready for 21st century jobs.

“I encourage the governor to listen to what the people of Arizona are saying and to veto the budget. There are other options; balancing the budget does not require us to mortgage our future.”
Gov. Doug Ducey is thrilled with the budget, and has said it represents "99 percent" of what he has proposed in January.
"The people elected us to get the job done and that's what we've done. We've passed a balanced, bipartisan budget that prioritizes wisely, protects our most vulnerable and restores Arizona to a structurally-balanced budget by fiscal 2017. If we want to see meaningful and lasting improvement in our schools and economy, government must start living within its means and practicing fiscal responsibility. We recognize that families, businesses and taxpayers do this every day. This budget reflects my commitment to representing Arizonans - not special interests. I want to thank the Legislature, especially the leadership of President Biggs and Speaker Gowan, for working diligently to get this done for the people of Arizona. This is a budget that reflects our state's priorities and for that we should all be proud."

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