State Budget Surplus Sparks Hopes for Higher-Education Funding Restoration

Jan 7, 2016

November marked the 11th straight month that Arizona’s revenue has exceeded what was forecast in the state budget. That’s led some elected officials to discuss the reinstatement of more than $99 million cut from the state’s three universities last year. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The Old Main building on Northern Arizona University's mountain campus in Flagstaff.
Credit NAU

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee’s most recent report shows Arizona was more than $200 million in the black for November.

Flagstaff Representative Bob Thorpe, the chairman of the Government and Higher Education Committee, says he’d like to funnel some of the state’s surplus back to higher education this year.

“What I will be asking for is that we get the full $99 million restoration … It had a huge negative impact for NAU, of course,” he says.

Northern Arizona University lost more than $17 million and 60 jobs to the budget cuts.

Even though Arizona’s economy has improved, Thorpe is still uncertain of how many of his colleagues would support the restoration of university funds.

“I don’t know where the governor stands at this point; I really don’t know where leadership stand at this point as far as higher-educational funding,” he says.

The balance of the state’s general fund is now about $1.5 billion. The JLBC says much the revenue gain came from boosts in sales, individual income and corporate taxes.

The legislature’s 2016 session begins in Phoenix January 11th.