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Governor wants to fund Phoenix medical school, legislators don't

By Andrea Kelly
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, March 21, 2005
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PHOENIX - A state budget, approved late last week by both the Arizona Senate and House of Representatives, does not include any funding for the expansion of the UA College of Medicine in Phoenix, but UA administrators are hoping that will change before the budget is finalized.

The budget was sent to Gov. Janet Napolitano Friday, and she has until late this week to either approve or veto it.

If she vetoes the budget, funding for all state agencies, including universities, will return to the drawing board until a new budget is approved.

If negotiations begin again after a veto, the budget may not be finalized until sometime in May, said Greg Fahey, UA associate vice president for government relations.

Napolitano included full funding for the medical school expansion in her budget proposal released in January, which is why some think she will fight to ensure the school is funded, Fahey said.

President Peter Likins called the potential for zero funding "devastating" because the expansion cannot be done without state money. He said Napolitano has been "deeply involved" in the process of initiating the medical school in Phoenix, and hopes she will end up funding it.

We're not asking them to sign a blank check

- Peter Likins,UA president


The expansion of the medical school to Phoenix would help the university educate more students and expand the research being done in Tucson, Likins said.

Medical students spend their first two years studying on the UA campus and their last two years of clinical studies in hospitals, including nine hospitals in Phoenix, Likins said. The expansion would allow 24 students to start their first year of medical school at the Phoenix campus in fall 2006. That number could grow after the first year but is contingent on funding.

Likins said a total of $7 million is needed this year to initially fund the expansion. Of that, $1 million would go to ASU for funding of the bioinformatics portion of the school, and $6 million would be for the UA to renovate three buildings for the school, purchase equipment and hire a staff.

Likins said the possibility of the school not receiving funding this year is unbelievable.

"I can't even fathom that situation," he said. "That really would create enormous distress. I just do not know what we would do."

While working on the House side of the budget more than a week ago, Rep. Tom Boone, R-Glendale, said the lack of funding for the medical school in Phoenix was a result of a lack of information.

Representatives have not seen a plan for the school, so they had no basis on which to fund it, said Boone, chairman of one of the House Appropriations committees responsible for creating the budget.

"We'd like to see specifics on how that (funding) would be used," Boone said.

Likins said a long-term plan for the school would probably be completed this summer. He said the full plan was pending on the commitment of hospitals in Phoenix, and after that was established, the amount the state would need to fund would be determined.

The important thing, Likins said, is that he isn't asking legislators to blindly fund the school. The $7 million request is based on what is needed for next year, a one-time request.

"We're not asking them to sign a blank check," Likins said. "We're not asking them to make (long-term) commitments."

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