University Budgets

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Arizona’s three universities lost nearly $100 million in funding during the recently-ended legislative session. Mark Killian, chair of the Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the universities, will discuss that issue and more.

Ted Simons: Arizona's three Universities lost nearly $100 million in funding during the recently ended legislative session. Friday there was a call for increased tuition and fees to make up for the shortfall. Mark Killian is chair of the Arizona Board of Regents which oversees the university, he joins us now.

Mark Killian: Glad to be here, thanks for asking me to be here.

Ted Simons: The Governor tells you more funding cuts could be permanent, more cuts could be possible. I mean, he's saying this may be as good as it gets. How do you respond to that?

Mark Killian: Ouch! Ow! I think we were we are so black and blue from this session that there's a great level of frustration building within the University community and those that support the universities. I think there are a number of things we have to do differently. One is we're not doing a good job of communicating what it is we do at the universities. We've got to do a better job of that. We have three of the most outstanding universities in America today. You look at what they are doing, the research they are doing, the new technologies they are using to teach our students, the advancement and the development of knowledge that's available to us in Arizona today is unprecedented. And so we've got to figure out a way to convince these policymakers that the cuts to the university are these permanent cuts in effect hurt our ability to deliver a quality product for the people of Arizona.

Ted Simons: The Governor says he wants a sustainable long-term business plan as far as funding is concerned. What does that mean?

Mark Killian: Well, I'm not sure exactly what he means by that in detail. My interpretation of that is he is looking for the universities to develop other alternatives for funding for the universities, orient general fund, which we are doing. We're looking at all kinds of business agreements. These universities are run like a business, they are billion-dollar enterprises. We have three of the best top executives in America running these universities. They are talented enough and with their talent and the talent of their employees, and working in the regents, we'll come up with a plan that gets us over the hump.

Ted Simons: The Governor also said you need to restrain yourselves from raising tuition. Look at cutting administrative costs, programs that don't work, these sorts of things. Respond.

Mark Killian: You know, we made a lot of cuts, we've made a lot of changes in the university during the great recession. And during that time we went to the old good old well of raise the tuition to make up the difference. I don't think these regents are prepared to do that again. We can't continue to cover the legislators' tax free environment by creating increased taxes by way of raising tuition on middle-class families. That's a nonstarter. And so the regents have been good little boys and girls in the past, we've raised tuition and fees to try and make things work. We're not going down that road again.

Ted Simons: So what road do you go down?

Mark Killian: We're going to have to look hard and low at everything we do at the universities. It looks like there will be a cost to not funding the universities through the general fund. But to go back and ask people to increase the pay of tuition, we can't -- we can't price ourselves out of education in Arizona. And so my gut reaction is this group of Board of Regents isn't going rubber stamp these proposals. We are going to look at them very carefully. We will try and analyze exactly just what it does to our students. But I for one am not interested in raising the cost of tuition for our people of Arizona.

Ted Simons: Are you interested in suing the state over this?

Mark Killian: I'd sue anybody over this whole problem. It's one of the options that is on the table by the regents. We've talked about that. And that is, you know, what is the meaning of the words in the constitution. Do they really mean what they mean? Our lawyers are looking at every avenue to see if there's something we need to do. The most important thing out of that whole discussion is as regents, we don't want to give up our legal rights by not doing something, okay? And so we need to make sure we protect our legal rights under the constitution to defend that language that says that the legislature is to fund and improve the public institutions.

Ted Simons: And shall raise taxes.

Mark Killian: That's right. It's a sneaky little word about shall. It doesn't say maybe. And you know, in Arizona it's been 25 years since we've had a legislative imposed tax increase. It may be time to reconsider where we're headed.

Ted Simons: ASU trustees wrote that educated citizens, long-term health of the economy, not priorities for the State of Arizona as indicative of the budget. You agree with that?

Mark Killian: Yeah, I do. I think -- I think term limits have created a lack of institutional memory for Arizona. As result of that we're not getting long-term planning like we need. When I was in the legislature years ago there was a long-term vision of where we wanted to take the state. And I think we're missing the ball here. The bottom line is if you want to cure poverty in Arizona, if you want to raise incomes, if you want to raise revenue, the quickest way to do that is to have people have better paying jobs, better opportunities, get great education. They stop needing welfare and AHCCCHS, they change the trajectories of families into the future, the well-being of families, new business creations, all of these things are part of the dynamic effort of educating a populace. Somehow that's been lost in all of these political maneuverings.

Ted Simons: You're director of the agriculture department. The impact of the governor saying, from a distance it looks like guys, starting to kill me here, let's make him director of the agriculture department. Did you campaign for that position?

Mark Killian: No. In fact, I was approached by the agriculture community 18 months ago, if I would consider being the director. I went through an interview process and my name was forwarded to the governor's office almost 18 months ago and it's just been sitting up there. Like with the Department of Revenue, if the governor calls and says he needs your help, I didn't want to be the state's chief tax director but he needed me to do that. I'm happy to help the Governor with agriculture.

Ted Simons: You don't think he's trying to influence your position on the budget?

Mark Killian: Those people that know me know that I say what I mean. I've always been very outspoken. I know this governor and he's not going to get his nose out of joint because he and I disagree on the Universities.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here, thank you, appreciate it.

Mark Killian:Chair, Arizona Board of Regents;

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