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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Regents may sue legislature

    The Arizona Board of Regents may find a way in the near future to deal with the state legislature’s recent budget proposal-legal action.

    When the Republican-led legislature passed its proposed budget late last week, it did not look much different from Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposal on the surface. But while both proposals included a $40 million cut to Arizona higher education, the legislature’s included $50 million in sweeps from university accounts.

    Aside from being an unpleasant surprise for the university system, the approved budget proposal may have also disqualified Arizona education from $832 million in federal stimulus money.

    In order for states to receive federal stimulus money, they must show a “”maintenance of effort”” in financial support for state higher education. The sweeps would take money from non-state-supported funding sources within the university system, thus showing a possible failure of the maintenance of effort, said Student Regent David Martinez.

    “”These sweeps are, in fact, illegal,”” he said. “”The Regents are willing to take that to court if necessary.””

    The accounts open to sweeps are those associated with campus housing and textbook sales, said Andrea Smiley, a public relations representative with the Board.

    “”Those accounts are not cash,”” she said. “”Those include things like the bookstore, which are often just inventory, as well as self-funded ResLife programs designed for the upkeep of residence halls.””

    If the state attempts to remove the $50 million from university accounts, the Regents will be in full force to fight it, Smiley added.

    “”What the Regents have told the legislature and the governor’s office is that if there’s any effort to move forward in sweeping those accounts, then that’s something we would not hesitate pursuing,”” she said.

    In fact, the Board is already prepping with outside legal counsel.

    The budget passed by the legislature is far from final, though. While leaders at the State Capitol have passed the budget, they are sitting on it in hopes of negotiating its final details with the governor.

    Brewer could still veto the bill if she does not approve of its final outline. The governor’s original proposed plan protected Arizona higher education from sweeps.

    If the state is denied its stimulus money for education, it would put the university system in a hole that would include $40 million in cuts outlined in the state budget, $50 million taken via fund sweeps and $146 million lost out on because of the rejection of stimulus money.

    Brewer formally applied for the federal stimulus money specifically for education on June 5, $56 million of which is meant to go toward the UA.

    With the $3 billion deficit the state finds itself in, it becomes clear that Arizona needs new revenue, which will come in the form of almost $1 billion in stimulus money if the legislature would just back down from implementing sweeps, President Robert Shelton told the Daily Wildcat.

    “”It is my expectation and hope that the governor and legislature will honor the maintenance of effort condition,”” Shelton said. “”If they wish, they have a way to completely devastate education in Arizona. The tools are in their hands to do just that.””

    More information on how the budget may affect stimulus money, see the Daily Wildcat story “”University stimulus money in danger””

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