GOP budget leaders in the state House on Tuesday agreed to reduce by half the proposed budget cuts this fiscal year for Arizona’s public universities to $121 million.
Earlier this month, the chairmen of the state Legislature’s appropriations committees listed a total of more than $300 million in higher education funding cuts — $243 million alone for this fiscal year, which ends June 30.
The state faces a catastrophic budget shortfall that is estimated at $1.6 billion this fiscal year and another $1.4 billion next.
The proposed cuts would have cost Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University nearly a third of their state money. Those funds are primarily used for operations and instruction.
In response, ASU President Michael Crow announced that such massive funding losses would force the university to close its Polytechnic campus in east Mesa and lay off 2,500 employees.
The universities also countered this week, proposing a package of $100 million in higher education cuts. The House appropriations committee met for budget negotiations with the three university presidents.
“We’re really only $21 million apart,” said Rep. John Kavanaugh, R-Fountain Hills and House appropriations chairman, “and that amount is not going to cause any school closures or major problems.”
Crow was not immediately available for comment Tuesday afternoon.