Democratic lawmakers outraged over newly balanced budget

Democratic lawmakers are outraged tonight. They say Republicans pushed through a bill that balances the budget on the backs of the middle class and students.

Republicans say the bill reflects Arizona living within its means.

The loser in the new state budget is higher education. The budget slashes $100 million from universities and cuts one hundred percent of state funding from Pima and Maricopa County community colleges.

"These republican legislators will tell you 'well we have to cut these budgets so it will boost the economy,' [but] it absolutely does the opposite," said Rep. Ken Clark, D- Phoenix.

Both presidents of the University of Arizona and Arizona State University are echoing protestors this week, by saying they are deeply disappointed and that the cuts will have a devastating effect on the universities.

"Students are going to come out of undergraduate with more student loan debt," said Clark. "They are going to start their lives in a debt hole, which means they have less impact on economy. It will drag our economy."

Republican's say the $9 billion budget made necessary cuts to deal with a deep deficit.

"I'd love to give them that back and more, but we don't have the money," said Rep. Kelly Townsend, R- Mesa. "There's painful decisions that have to be made if you are going to do that and balance that sheet."

Democrats are also upset with how the budget was passed, saying it was rushed. Lawmakers hashed it out until the morning hours.

"We didn't go to the floor into midnight. We waited around all day. We didn't get the final details of the budget until we were on the floor," Clark said.

Republicans say the early morning session is just part of the political process.

"I don't want to get into tit for tat," said Townsend. "This is my third budget...that's the process."

Governor Doug Ducey praised the outcome in a statement his office released today. The budget will now head to his desk and he's expected to sign it into law.
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