They say the state has money to spare
PHOENIX (AP) – Universities and state agencies in Arizona are seeking at least $500 million in new spending now that the state's economy is recovering.
The Arizona Capitol Times reports that universities want a $203 million budget increase while the Department of Economic Security, the state's Medicaid program and other agencies are asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding.
The universities are seeking money for fire code upgrades, acquiring research equipment and an exchange program with schools in western part of the United States.
The Department of Economic Security seeks to hire hundreds of Child Protective Services investigators and caseworkers due to a severe overload of cases.
The increases are being sought against the backdrop of another potential budget shortfall by the middle of this decade, the result of the expiration of a temporary sales tax increase that has propped up the state during the worst of the recession and has been producing roughly $1 billion annually.
Gov. Jan Brewer and her staff are in the middle of drafting her budget recommendation to the Legislature. She is expected to announce her proposal early next year.
Some legislators are wary of spending more than the current $8.57 billion budget.
Republican Sen. Don Shooter of Yuma, who leads the Senate's appropriations committee, said some of the requests, such as the universities' request for a 29 percent hike in their budget, are ridiculous. "Do they have any idea that the economy is flat at best?'' Shooter told the newspaper, adding, "They must be delusional because we don't have any money.''