State lawmakers will have to restore at least $150 million in cuts they just made to higher education to keep Arizona from losing more than $800 million in federal education stimulus.
Draft rules by the U.S. Department of Education require states to use allocations to help restore public funding to either the level being spent this budget year or the prior one, whichever was higher.
Documents from the federal agency obtained by Capitol Media Services show the state must assure it will maintain the same level of support for education through the 2010-11 budget year. That bars the state from restoring money now and taking it back to balance next year's budget.
The regulations came as a surprise to lawmakers who, just last month, were told that they were free to cut education as long as the funding did not go below what is was in 2006.
Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said unless the final rules differ substantially, or Arizona can get a waiver, the state will have no choice but to restore the cash to the universities.