2 States Approve Measures That Will Benefit Higher Education

May 19, 2010

Arizona voters approved a ballot measure Tuesday that will help stave off deep cuts to higher education, while Oregon voters supported a measure that will allow colleges to more easily purchase buildings, according to early, unofficial returns as ballots were still being counted.

The Arizona initiative, Proposition 100, was winning handily, claiming more than 60 percent of the vote with nearly 85 percent of polls reporting. The measure approves a temporary tax increase of one cent on the dollar, which is expected to generate $900-million in annual revenue.

"By passing Proposition 100, Arizona voters sent a message that they value and support public education, which is an essential component of a healthy society," said Johnny Cruz, a spokesman for the University of Arizona.

The measure's approval will spare colleges from deep budget cuts, which university officials said would have led to the elimination of hundreds of jobs, furloughs, and cuts to student aid and academic programs.

The State Legislature identified reductions to be made in the state's higher-education budget if the measure failed. Those included a 12-percent reduction in funds for universities and an 11-percent cut for community colleges.

Mr. Cruz said that Arizona universities will continue to need to be more efficient, but the measure "prevented a much more devastating scenario."

In Oregon, with about two-thirds of the ballots counted, more than 70 percent of voters had backed a measure to allow state universities and community colleges to use general-obligation bonds—the lowest-cost bonds—to purchase existing buildings.

Christopher Maples, president of the Oregon Institute of Technology, said the measure will allow his university to purchase a building that was previously occupied by the technology corporation InFocus.

With the purchase, the university plans to consolidate four Portland-area campuses into a single location. The new building, in Wilsonville, Ore., will house classrooms and laboratories for the consolidated campuses.

Constructing a new building could cost the university at least $20-million more, whereas purchasing the building with another type of financing would cost $2-million more, Oregon University System officials said.

"I'm excited for the opportunity for our university to be able to consolidate and increase our efficiency in the Portland area," he said. "I think this is going to be a much better use of Oregon tax dollars."