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UA urged to support budget proposal

photo courtesy of the Arizona State Press
UA President Peter Likins asked the Legislature for $15 million to bring the average salary at the UA to the 50th percentile nationally. Likins said the likelihood of receiving the total amount is slim.
By Andrea Kelly
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, January 23, 2004
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TEMPE - Arizona Board of Regents President Chris Herstam urged regents and university presidents yesterday to support the governor's budget requests, even though her proposal is smaller than the university requests.

Presidents of the UA, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University requested a combined 14.3 percent increase in funding over last year's budget. If the Legislature granted this amount, it would bring the funding from the state for the universities to almost $1.2 billion, an increase of about $100 million.

Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano requested the schools receive 6.1 percent more than last year, which would raise their total budget to just over $1.1 billion, an increase of almost $46 million next year.

The UA requested an increase of 12.4 percent in funding from the state, which would amount to an additional $33 million.

During the fall semester, President Peter Likins said the UA needed $54 million to bring the average salary at the UA to the 50th percentile nationally. Likins only asked for $15 million because he thought the likelihood of actually getting $15 million was slim.

Regent Gary Stuart told the board the governor's request would be good for the universities even if it was less than they asked for.

"We're thrilled by the governor's budget recommendations," he said, but added that the budget-setting process is still in the early stages.

"It is critical that we rally around the governor's budget and those numbers," Herstam said.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee, a Republican-controlled committee that makes budget recommendations, proposed that the Legislature not add to the amount the universities receive next year.

Without an addition, the schools will have to struggle to meet their funding needs.

"We're hoping our friends in the Legislature are not thinking in terms of splitting the differences between the JLBC and the governor's numbers," Herstam said.

If the numbers were split, the amount granted to the three Arizona schools would be between 6.1 percent and zero - far from the original request the presidents made.

Regent Donald Ulrich challenged the university presidents on the amount they requested and the difference between the recommendations.

Likins said the amount the universities requested may seem high now, but it was actually less than the amount the UA needs.

"The budget we requested was already a compromise," Likins said. "We asked not for more than we need, but less than we need, and we're seeing a request for less than we asked for."

Ulrich wanted to make sure the board and the presidents do not just sit back and accept the governor's proposal, which calls for an increase of about 60 percent less than they originally asked for.

"Why aren't we supporting what we originally said?" he asked.

"Because we want to win," Likins said, adding that no matter what the state gives the universities, as long as it is more than the previous year, the university benefits.

ASU president Michael Crow said the numbers were what he thought the school needed, but John Haeger, president of NAU, agreed with Likins.

"We already made a compromise," Haeger said.

Ulrich, who used to work in the governor's office, suggested the board and the presidents keep pushing the Legislature for more money, because he has witnessed that strategy succeed in the past.

"In the time I spent down there, I saw people rally against them and get more money," Ulrich said, trying to convince the presidents to demand more money, rather than accept whatever they receive.

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