By Cyndy Cole
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday February 26, 2002
Students lunch with lawmakers, hoping to impact future budget decisions
PHOENIX ¸ Republican lawmakers will propose cutting "a lot less" from UA and the Arizona Health Sciences Center in the rest of this fiscal year than the $15.8 million they proposed late last month, speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives said yesterday.
Instead, they will cut the remainder after July 1, meaning that GOP lawmakers who control the House and Senate might have downsized their proposal to cut $35.2 million from the UA and AHSC between this year and next.
I hope (Napolitano) protects us, because right now that's the brightest spot in a very dim landscape.
- Doug Hartz
ASUA student body president
House Speaker Jake Flake (R-Snowflake) said lawmakers are looking to cut the UA and Arizona Health Sciences budget by about 1 percent, or $3.1 million, before July 1 and then 4 percent more during the next academic year as they search for ways to resolve a $1.3 billion state deficit. Lawmakers are considering cutting the UA budget once this year and five times during the 2003-2004 academic year, Flake said.
The proposed cuts would not include $29 million for new research facilities at the UA and in Phoenix, which Flake is trying to find funding for, he said.
Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano has repeatedly stated that she will not support funding cuts among Arizona's public universities, which use about $740 million of the state's $6 billion general fund budget.
Napolitano and legislators are expected to continue talks on the budget this week, but have not announced any areas they agree on, including university funding.
UA President Pete Likins told lawmakers earlier this month that he couldn't cut the university budget as much as proposed this year, even if he fired UA employees immediately, because it is too late in the fiscal year.
In addition to the announcement, about 100 students from UA, Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University went to the Capitol yesterday to have lunch with and lobby lawmakers to spare the universities from cuts.
UA Student Body President Doug Hartz spoke with Flake, but said he made no headway in trying to convince him to drop his proposal to cut the university's budget.
"I feel very defeated. It doesn't sound to me like people are looking for alternatives to making drastic cuts," Hartz said. "I hope (Napolitano) protects us, because right now that's the brightest spot in a very dim landscape."
The luncheon was part political rally and part social event. Improvisational comedy group Charles Darwin Experience and a few students gathered to sing "Fuck Her Gently," by Tenacious D, quieting certain words as they sang, while more than a dozen Republican and Democratic lawmakers talked with students.
MTV Real World Season Nine cast members Kelly and Danny gave advice and took student questions on being gay and lesbian, politically active, college life in general and fighting budget cuts.
"My suggestion is that you walk up to the Senate over there and beat up a couple of senators," Danny said.
Pre-business freshman Bryant Conger was one of about 50 UA students who attended the rally. A member of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona freshman class council, Conger said his political involvement is keeping him at UA, but that the rising costs might convince him to leave.
Conger is worried about paying higher fees in the Eller College of Business and Public Administration, coupled with a tuition hike, that could set him back more than $1,250.
"It comes down to, ╬Am I going to transfer because it's too expensive, or stay here?'" Conger said.
But Rep. Randy Graf, R-Green Valley, and Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, were among the legislators who told students that university budgets have to be cut. Both said they don't want to raise taxes, don't have the freedom to use or cut 60 percent of the voter-approved state budget and universities make up a major portion of the budget.