University Budget Cuts

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The budget passed by state lawmakers contains a cut of nearly $100 million for universities and cuts all state funding for some community college districts. Patrick Morales, vice president of the Arizona Students’ Association, will talk about the cuts and how they might impact students.

Ted Simons: The state budget passed over the weekend includes big cuts to state universities and community colleges. Here now with the reaction to the budget's numbers for higher education is Patrick Morales, vice president of the Arizona Students Association, which represents University and community college students. Good to have you here, thanks for joining us.

Patrick Morales: Thank you.

Ted Simons: The idea of $99 million in cuts to universities, your thoughts.

Patrick Morales: $99 million to higher education including community colleges. These cuts are not only drastic but they are not feasible and they are not fiscally conservative.

Ted Simons: Let's get to community colleges. No funding for Maricopa County and Pima County colleges.

Patrick Morales: No funding for that, I'm going to ASU and MCC. My tuition is going to go up. Every student that goes there, typically they are working, typically above 21, 22, and they typically will have to add another job.

Ted Simons: The Arizona Board of Regents has said they don't want to see tuition hikes this year. The community colleges don't want to see property taxes hiked either. Is that doable? With these cuts do, tuition cuts have to happen?

Patrick Morales: I think in the past with Governor Ducey's original proposal that was an option. But now since it's been raised to $99 million it's definitely not feasible. They should look for other alternatives.

Ted Simons: What other alternatives?

Patrick Morales: The biggest thing is allocating from other parts of the revenue. We saw the only thing that increased is private prison spending. We're reinforcing the idea of a school to prison pipeline instead of a school to college pipeline.

Ted Simons: Other ideas of revenue: There is money there, but the cuts to the University budget are huge. They have been huge for the past few years. And something's got to give here relatively soon. What do you want to see happen?

Patrick Morales: The biggest thing as a student association, we want to see students being able to afford their education. The state has to realize they are not spending in education, they have to invest in education.

Ted Simons: Do you think taxes should be raised to support higher education?

Patrick Morales: Yes.

Ted Simons: How much?

Patrick Morales: That depends on the particular legislature. But I think one idea that came from both sides when I was having a conversation with them was to raise penalties for certain things like traffic stops and taxation, and have a quarter of it go to education, half go to the state budget and a quarter to health care.

Ted Simons: Has the student association been involved in discussions regarding a funding source a reliable funding source for higher education, be it Universities or community colleges?

Patrick Morales: Yes. About two years ago we had proposition 204, previous to that we had Proposition 100, a temporary sales tax for higher education. But it wasn't specifically appropriated for higher education. It was used to help the state during the recession. We proposed proposition 204, the same thing in a temporary form and allocated it specifically to education. The main proponent that fought against us was Governor Ducey in his role of state treasurer. He kept saying there was money in the budget, we had extra money that we could just pull from and fund education. As governor he's gone with a different rule.

Ted Simons: Do you think he was disingenuous in those arguments?

Patrick Morales: Yes.

Ted Simons: You are saying that?

Patrick Morales: Yes.

Ted Simons: Do you think that the governor believes that higher education is a lower priority in Arizona?

Patrick Morales: I think that's what his plan has shown. His friends at the legislature on both sides, we had bipartisan votes on both sides, proves that.

Ted Simons: Do you understand the Governor's position and the legislature's position when they only have X amount of dollars, it's very difficult to raise taxes through the legislative process. The initiative process is a whole other matter. Everyone has to cut and Universities have to be included.

Patrick Morales: Yes. I know that they are under pressure to balance the budget. I know we haven't done that in a while. But the best thing that a fiscally conservative side would be to cut based on percentages from every part of the state revenue. We would see cuts to health, cuts to security and education as well. But at a more feasible level instead of just depending on higher education.

Ted Simons: As far as the the students association is concerned, what do you plan to do about this?

Patrick Morales: We've been down at the capitol since this first started. I was there since legislation time started at the beginning of February. But we're going to be there tomorrow and the day after and we're continuing our moves. I know at Northern Arizona University we had our student rally at the University of Arizona and here downtown at the capitol.

Ted Simons: Are you talking to lawmakers one on one?

Patrick Morales: Yes.

Ted Simons: What are you telling them?

Patrick Morales: We're looking for solutions. Both sides seem to be drawing blanks when I ask for solutions.

Ted Simons: What kind of response are you getting when you do talk to lawmakers? What are they telling you?

Patrick Morales: The biggest thing is they don't seem to have a valid solution. One side wants to raise taxes and not necessarily from all sides of the budget. And the other side wants to lower budget taxes. But that lowers your quality of education and raises your class size.

Ted Simons: As far as the Arizona Students Association, what exactly that is group? Describe it for us.

Patrick Morales: The Arizona Students Association is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, we started in 1974 to advocate for students. The three universities came together to create the organization. We recently added the community colleges because we realized those schools were really being hit hard with cuts like this.

Ted Simons: You are down at the legislature and will continue to be down there?

Patrick Morales: Yes.

Ted Simons: Going to try any new tactics?

Patrick Morales: The number one rule of organizing is to escalate your tactics.

Ted Simons: We'll see what you do. Thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.

Patrick Morales: Thank you.

Patrick Morales:Vice President, Arizona Students' Association;

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