PHOENIX — Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Doug Ducey have agreed to extract $35 million more from state universities than the governor first proposed.
The deal negotiated behind closed doors calls for reducing university funding this coming year by $110 million. Arizona State University is expected to take the biggest hit.
Ducey and the lawmakers also have agreed to eliminate the last bit of state aid that now goes to community colleges in Pima and Maricopa counties. Other community college systems would go unscathed.
And Ducey has agreed to scale back his demand that lawmakers approve 3,000 new private prison beds at a cost of $100 million over three years.
Instead, the state will proceed with a 1,000-bed facility. At the same time it will give counties, some of which have said they have excess space in their jails, a chance to bid to house another 1,000.
That final 1,000 will have to wait at least a year and could not occur until lawmakers give final approval.
The additional cuts to universities is a direct result of GOP legislators balking at a proposal by Ducey to impose a hike of between $6 and $7 on the state's current vehicle registration fee, with the approximately $65 million raised earmarked to fund the Department of Public Safety. While Ducey said this is a fee, several lawmakers said this would have violated their pledge not to hike taxes.
Approving the fee also would have undermined the argument legislative leaders are making in court to kill the assessment approved in 2013 to fund expansion of the state's Medicaid program.
They are challenging the fact that this levy, in some ways similar to what Ducey proposed, passed with only a simple majority. But challengers contend this is really a tax which constitutionally requires a two-thirds vote.
Allowing the vehicle license fee to pass with a simple majority would be a concession that such levies do not require a supermajority.