Arizona Board Of Regents Asks For Budget Increase For State Universities

September 27, 2013

The Arizona Board of Regents is asking for a nearly 15 percent hike in next year’s budget for the state’s three universities and the Board of Regents itself. The regents said the nearly $100 million increase does not make up for the massive cuts made by the legislature during the recession, but that budget may not make it through intact.The regents are asking for $843 million for the three schools for the 2015 budget year that begins next summer. Under the proposal Arizona State University, which is the state’s largest school, would get $373 million. One of the major projects on the ASU campus would be completing the renovation of the 40-year-old psychology building.

The University of Arizona would get $314 million. As part of the request, $4.2 million would go to a new veterinary medicine program to ease a shortage of large-animal vets in rural areas and the agricultural industry.

 Northern Arizona University, the smallest of the three schools, would get $125 million.

The regents said the universities lost millions of dollars in funding over the last five years, while student  enrollment increased. The universities usually do not get all they ask for, but the Board of Regents is hoping that an improving economy will make the legislature more generous next year.

Rep. John Kavanagh chairs the House Appropriations Committee. He said the request is pretty optimistic based on revenue projections and a recent State Supreme Court ruling that will force the legislature to boost K-12 funding each year to account for inflation.

Despite arguments that investing in higher education is an economic driver, Kavanagh said, "f I took everybody who told me what the multiplier was for every time we invest budget money in a program, I mean, we should have a surplus of $30 billion today."

In fact, Kavanagh said, he is concerned the state will be running a deficit by 2017.

Board President Eileen Klein said during the economic downturn, the legislature cut hundreds of millions in higher ed funding.

Klein said this budget proposal is not part of the negotiating tactic of asking for more than you actually need, and that every dollar is for a priority project, but it could be difficult to get the university funding proposal through the legislature intact.

KJZZ's Nick Blumberg and Al Macias contributed to this report.

Updated 9/27/2013 at 4:35 p.m.