Legislative special session addresses K-12 funding, not university budgets

The Arizona Legislature convened in special session on Monday, July 6, to enact the K-12 education budget, which was deemed unsatisfactory and removed as a result of Gov. Jan Brewer’s earlier line-item vetoes in the state budget. However, university budgets were not affected by Monday’s action.

The governor’s line-item vetoes also eliminated the lump-sum budget reductions to the state’s three public universities. As a result, Northern Arizona University’s budget currently is at the level it was at the start of fiscal year 2009. This apparent reprieve likely will be temporary as the Legislature continues budget deliberations.

Brewer had exercised her line-item veto authority on July 1 because she objected to several of the cuts included in the state budget and the failure to include a referral of a temporary sales tax increase to provide additional revenues in the next three years. Because she does not have the authority to increase spending in the budget—only to delete specific budget lines—she opted to veto the entire K-12 state funding line item and call the Legislature back into special session to redress proposed cuts in education, public safety and health services. She also wants the Legislature to consider a temporary tax to raise state revenues to support those services.

While the Legislature restored K-12 education funding, the state budget still carries a $2.1 billion shortfall. The Legislature remains adjourned until Monday, July 13. It is anticipated that the Legislature will provide a timeline next week for reconsidering the remaining portions of the state budget and special session call.

A final decision on the number of furlough days to be taken by faculty and staff will be forthcoming as additional budget information is provided and federal stimulus fund allocations are determined.