Thursday November 15, 2001
Lobbyists encouraged by legislative session
Officials believe lawmakers will keep UA's budget cuts at 4 percent
Two days into the special legislative session, UA lobbyists are optimistic that state lawmakers want to limit the university's budget cuts.
Republican Gov. Jane Dee Hull has already asked the University of Arizona to slice $13.9 million from its budget for this year, and some legislators have said they do not support additional cuts.
That amount - 4 percent of the UA's annual state-appropriated budget - is what UA administrators were hoping the Legislature would ask them to cut.
The first bill, introduced in the special session that began Tuesday, maintained that 4 percent figure, but Greg Fahey, UA associate vice president for University Advancement, said other bills will likely call for larger amounts.
"There are groups working in the House to forge some other kinds of programs," he said.
Still, Fahey said he has seen an increase in support for the three state universities during the two days since the session began.
"I see a lot of House members who are committing to keep us at 4 percent," Fahey said.
Denny Marta, co-director of the Arizona Students' Association, agreed that the Legislature has taken a generally favorable attitude toward the universities' role in the budget cuts. He said the formal introduction of a bill advocating only a 4 percent cut is an encouraging sign that the Legislature supports keeping the UA's part in the rescission process at a minimum.
"It does show some concrete signs that they're leaning toward sticking at 4 percent," he said. "A lot of the House are strong supporters of higher education, and they understand the impact · it has on the state of Arizona."
ASA shuttled several dozen students to the opening of the session on Tuesday, but Marta said the lobbying group's focus will switch to writing letters to key legislators asking them to support cuts of no more than 4 percent.
Fahey emphasized, though, that compromise is inevitable in the legislative process, and some lawmakers do support asking the universities to make larger cuts.
"It's not easy to deal with a $1.6 billion shortfall · and somebody's going to have to get gored," he said. "We expect to be somewhat gored."
Still, Marta encourages all students to join ASA's letter-writing campaign.
"The budget-cut crisis is not only affecting them in the present · but could also affect the integrity of their degree," he said.
Students wishing to write letters to their legislators should e-mail ASA at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the group's Web site at http://asua.clubs.arizona.edu/~asa.