Temporary tax increase could ease university burden

Arizona voters will have their say on a temporary 1 cent sales tax increase, which, if passed, could add $1 billion to state coffers annually and assuage the universities’ budget reductions.

Northern Arizona University President John Haeger and Ernest Calderón, president of the Arizona Board of Regents, have praised the initiative, which was proffered by Gov. Jan Brewer as part of her strategy to address the state’s budget deficit.

Cuts to state services, coupled with the tax increase, is a “responsible, thoughtful and workable solution” to Arizona’s budget crisis that takes a forward-thinking approach to economic recovery, Haeger said.

The president has long said the universities are part of the solution, and by the end of the fiscal year, NAU will have seen more than $30 million cut from its budget and will be operating with 200 fewer employees. However, he added, “The state’s budget crisis cannot be solved by cuts alone. Education should be protected as much as possible because it is the way up and the way out of a recession.”

Haeger praised the governor’s commitment to education and her preservation of the Maintenance of Effort requirements needed for federal stimulus funding for the universities.