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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Regents push to boost jobs, students”

    The Arizona Board of Regents unanimously passed an economic stimulus proposal that calls for $1.4 billion to bolster the state’s slumping construction industry, fund construction projects at the three universities and increase college graduates statewide.

    It could find resistance, however, in the state Legislature, as at least one legislator does not expect it to pass.

    “”It’s a dilemma for me. The plan’s long-term goals will have an enormous value to the state, but $1.4 billion during a $1.8 billion budget shortfall is problematic,”” said Rep. Phil Lopes, D-Tucson.

    UA President Robert Shelton lauded the proposal’s importance to the short-, medium- and long-term health of the UA and the state’s university system.

    “”This proposal will enable us to continue the world-class research and education that is so important to the future of the state of Arizona,”” he said.

    Arizona State University President Michael Crow said the long-term economic returns of the proposal are more important than the short-term costs.

    He added that Arizona is 30,000 baccalaureate degrees a year behind the national standard, which puts the state’s competitiveness in danger.

    “”The facilities and infrastructure that we need from these investments are absolutely essential to our moving forward,”” Crow said. “”It’s like people who are for this are the people who want to win, and the people who don’t care about this are satisfied with economic instability, economic downturns and an uneducated population.

    “”That is not a world that can provide the kind of economic competitiveness we need.””

    The $1.4 billion will be divided among the state’s three universities and the Phoenix Biomedical Park, with $470 million going to the park, $330 million to ASU, $327 million to UA and $310 to Northern Arizona University.

    The debt repayment comes with an interest rate of 5 percent over the next 25 years.

    Of the $103 million in interest accrued by the projects, the proposal calls for the state to pay off 80 percent of the debt starting in 2010, with the universities covering the remaining 20 percent.

    The proposal is intended to strengthen the state’s construction industry in the face of the national housing crisis, as well as build 76 new facilities at the state’s universities and provide for more college graduates.

    Construction is slated to begin as early as July 2009.

    The proposal should add 30,000 new jobs statewide, said Dennis Hoffman, chief economist at ASU.

    “”Has there ever been a better time than now to make these investments?”” said Regent Fred Boice. “”These are comments that will need to be made sooner or later, and later is a bad choice.””

    David Martin, president of Arizona General Contractors, said his organization wholeheartedly supports the proposal.

    The Southern Arizona Leadership Council, Tucson Major Bob Walkup, Tucson Opportunities and Tucson Utilities Co. are also throwing their support behind the proposal, according to information from Ziemba Wade, a public relations firm.

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