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State Budget Surplus Sparks Hopes for Higher-Education Funding Restoration


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 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. 

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered 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 Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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