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Ducey’s budget proposal includes $75 million cut to university funding

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PHOENIX – Gov. Doug Ducey is recommending a $75 million cut to public universities to help address a projected $1 billion deficit for fiscal 2016.

The proposed cut in the executive budget plan released Friday amounts to 10 percent of universities’ state funding in the fiscal 2015 budget.

Among other belt-tightening recommendations, Ducey’s budget calls for reducing some programs offered by the state Department of Economic Security and reducing Medicaid provider rates by 3 percent starting April 1.

Ducey said a goal is protecting funding for K-12 education.

“We ask everyone to share in this sacrifice as we’re protecting these classrooms,” he said at a budget briefing.

Ducey also proposed using $125 million from the state’s rainy day fund to address the anticipated shortfall.

Meanwhile, the budget includes $59.8 million over three years for the Department of Corrections to add 3,000 beds to make room for a growing number of inmates.

Ducey and state lawmakers face a $500 million deficit in the current fiscal year and $1 billion in the next.

One daunting problem Ducey faces is the court order requiring the state to boost K-12 education funding by $317 million this fiscal year because during the economic downturn lawmakers failed to adjust funding for inflation as required by a voter-approved law.

Ducey’s budget sets the amount owed at about $74 million. He has urged school leaders and lawmakers to negotiate a settlement.

Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, who along with House Speaker David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, joined Ducey at a morning briefing, said the budget moves in the right direction.

“I can see that in just a couple of years we’re going to have a structural balance,” Biggs said. “And at the same time we’re setting priorities to protect what most of us in Arizona believe are our government responsibilities.”

Senate and House Democratic leaders released a statement criticizing Ducey’s proposal, saying it would undermine Arizona’s economic recovery.

“Governor Ducey’s budget proposal continues the Republican legacy of undermining Arizona’s economic recovery,” House Minority Leader Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley, said in the statement. “Since he is taking more resources from schools and universities, our kids will not get the kind of education they need … and Arizona will continue to fall behind.”