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State Revenue Spike Leads to Higher-Ed Restoration Talks Among Lawmakers

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For four straight months, Arizona has taken in higher-than-expected revenue. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, some lawmakers want to reinstate a chunk of the nearly $100 million cut from higher education in the 2016 state budget.

Much of the revenue spike came from increased collections of corporate and capital gains taxes. Now, Arizona has more than $230 million more on hand than what lawmakers anticipated when crafting last year’s budget. That surplus now has some reconsidering the steep cuts to higher education and state services planned for 2016.

Flagstaff Republican Representative Bob Thorpe is the chairman of the House Government and Higher Education Committee.

“I’m hopeful that I can convince, and other members can convince the legislature and our governor that we can possibly do some restorations, but it certainly will help our argument if we’re seeing a rebounding economy,” Thorpe says.

Thorpe says before reinstating higher-education funds, the state must first balance its budget and pay down more than $3 billion in debt.

The cuts to Arizona’s public universities and community colleges go into effect next month, and Northern Arizona University alone will lose $17.3 million dollars.

A recent study showed Arizona leading the nation in cuts to higher education since the 2008 Great Recession.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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