Cuts may benefit rural health programs

By Beth Silver

Arizona Daily Wildcat

PHOENIX An appropriations subcommittee yesterday recommended that the Legislature replenish money for the UA's Arizona Health Education centers by carving out a slice of ASU and UA.

In January, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee recommended gutting the $1.15 million centers, which educate doctors and set up clinics in rural areas.

But instead of increasing the universities' funding to pay for it as university administrators would have liked it the subcommittee voted to take the money from the two Arizona State University programs and from the University of Arizona's general fund.

If the full Legislature votes to adopt the subcommittee's plan, ASU would lose $800,000 from the law school's legal assistance program for the indigent and from a research center. The UA would get $385,000 cut from its general fund. Administrators could choose where to cut the money.

"We support AHEC funding, but we don't support them taking the money from elsewhere to pay for it," said Greg Fahey, the UA's lobbyist.

The subcommittee chair, Sen. Larry Chesley, R-Gilbert, said the state should not pay for the legal assistance program because the law students end up helping people sue the state.

Rep. Joe Lopez, D-Phoenix, who voted against the recommendation, said the universities should get full funding along with the money for the rural health program.

"It's no wonder the universities came to us with different positions. We're taking from one and giving to another," he said at the hearing Friday.

"Clearly it is not a matter of not having the money. We're recommending $200 million in property or income tax reductions," he said.

In addition to funding the education centers, the subcommittee adopted the joint legislative committee's budget which would increase the universities' budgets by $16.6 million over this year's mid

$581 million in state funds.

Of that, the UA would get a $6.6 million increase over this year's $214.8 million state-appropriated budget.

The full Legislature is expected to vote on the universities' budgets in mid-March.

Paul Allvin, Arizona Students' Association executive director, said it is unlikely the full Appropriations Committees would deviate from the subcommittee's recommendations.

"This is the best fiscal year the state has ever had in its modern history," he said. "And we're made to beg for nickels and dimes and I think our legislators' priorities are misaligned."

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