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Students: take the day off from school to lobby for your future

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Melanie Rainer
student lobbyist
By Melanie Rainer
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday February 24, 2003

Contrary to what many people believe, one person can make a difference. One statement to the Arizona Legislature can impact the outcome of several decisions detrimental to the University of Arizona. Students are not only voters and citizens, but more importantly, the future of this state. The prosperity and political stability of Arizona depend on students and higher education.

Students can lobby for change tomorrow by attending the Arizona Students' Association (ASA) Lunch Conference with 60 state Legislature members.

The University of Arizona has already received budget cuts of $44 million (not counting appropriations made and rescinded over fiscal year 2002-03) and there are more to come. The state Legislature demands that the Arizona universities pay for the state's mistakes and raise tuition in order to subsidize the worst budget deficit in Arizona history.

The current budget proposal by the Arizona Joint Legislative Budgetary Committee demonstrates evidence that the Legislature will raid our tuition dollars in the form of a "student use-tax" rather than restore the taxes that were irresponsibly cut by the Legislature in the past. The state Legislature that campaigned and promised to keep higher education as a top priority is now revoking that promise in order to cover up its own mistakes.
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Over the past decade, the state has continually used shor-term decision analysis and has nothing to show for it.

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What does this mean for us? Students face the elimination of entire colleges and departments, a shrinking faculty, reduced class availability, limited student programs and more. The effects of these budget cuts are damaging to the university, the state and, most urgently, students.

The University of Arizona serves as an economic engine for the state. The amount of money generated by research, faculty, students, alumni and the day-to-day functioning of the university is essential for the well being of Arizona. The public leaders of this state continue to tout Arizona as a prime contender for a successful high-tech economy with an abundance of good jobs for its residents.

But the reality is that the state will never achieve this without making higher education a top priority.

The University of Arizona is an investment for the state. The Legislature needs to stop making short-term decisions, relying largely on drastic budget cuts, when long-term decisions are needed. Over the past decade, the state has continually used short-term decision analysis budget cuts and has nothing to show for it.

Apparently, attempting to patch up the budget deficit on the backs of students is a quick fix too good to pass up. The state should learn from its past mistakes and realize that it is time to invest in its public universities.

This Tuesday, students will be given an opportunity to make this point to the state Legislature. At 6 a.m., buses will be loaded in front of Old Main to take students to the State Capitol where the Arizona Students' Association is hosting its "Legislative Conference" for students. Students will not only be able to communicate with 60 legislators, but also participate in lobbying and government workshops with free lunch and entertainment.

This date will also be the official kick-off of the ASA campaign to the state Legislature: "Show Me the Money and Don't Take It Back." Participate in this campaign by picking up a campaign T-shirt and wearing it on Thursday at the tuition hearings held in Room 203 of the Harvill building. This is our opportunity to show how we are being affected as individuals, and the impact of the state's decisions on our community. For information pertaining to the ASA Legislative Conference or "The Show Me the Money" campaign please stop by ASUA or call 621-6306.

The role of the student voice is essential in this process. When mobilized, students have the ability to leave their mark and make an impact on important decisions. Students of the UA need to collaborate and make a statement to the legislature. If we don't do it, who will? It is our right and our responsibility to loudly and clearly tell the legislature that it is wrong to take student tuition dollars to cover the budget deficit.

It is up to students to show the reality of how much a tuition increase will impact the student body. Make your voice heard. Make OUR voice heard. It is up to us.

Melanie Rainer is a business economics senior and is a student lobbyist. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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