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Ducey's sales tax proposal could help ASU tackle maintenance problems

ASU would receive an extra $8 million to help improve infrastructure

Gov. Doug Ducey walks on stage to take his oath of office at the state Capitol courtyard on Jan. 5, 2015.

Gov. Doug Ducey walks on stage to take his oath of office at the state Capitol courtyard on Jan. 5, 2015.

Gov. Doug Ducey announced a plan to allow Arizona universities to keep their sales tax revenue for themselves.

The money would be used to improve infrastructure across each of the schools in the state of Arizona, according to Ducey's plan. For ASU, this means an extra $8 million in fiscal year 2018.

“I appreciate Governor Ducey’s forward-thinking budget proposal and look forward to working with him and the entire state legislature,” ASU President Michael Crow said in a statement. 

Crow said the extra money would help the necessary maintenance for university buildings.

“The governor’s proposed research infrastructure plan will further accelerate ASU’s research competitiveness, create new jobs, help speed new innovations to the marketplace and position Arizona’s economy as one based on knowledge and discovery," Crow said.

He also mentioned a past partnership with the state of Arizona that led to “five major research buildings at ASU.”

Ducey’s new plan allows ASU to focus on critical part of maintenance systems that has seen increased use in the past several years since the school has grown. Some older ASU buildings have started showing signs of wear and tear. 

An article from The Arizona Republic in November detailed problems in the Juniper Hall dorms in Tempe after a hot-water pipe burst. The incident displaced 150 students. This comes a few years after there was an issue leaky roofs in dormitories across the campus.

“ASU has $239 million in unmet building renewal needs for academic and support facilities,” Crow said, adding the the new deal will allow ASU to “address the most urgent items such as critical roof and building system replacements and utility upgrades.”

As for the state of Arizona, the entire plan aims to recapture an estimated $30.3 million in state revenues and $6.5 million in local revenues.

Arizona's legislature has recently been playing an active role in developing ways to help finance higher education and improve on the state's research institutions. Last year, a plan was released to help fund in-state residents to attend college.

The state of Arizona does not currently give any sort of funding for building maintenance needs. Arizona is also one of only six states that requires its public universities to pay state sales tax.

But counties across the state could suffer as tax dollars they have been receiving would be kept by the universities under Ducey's plan. 

James Arwood, vice president of policy for USGD, said that ASU's student government officially has no formal position over the issue but said he thinks the plan is another small step. 

"I don't think I'm at the point where I can judge if that's a good thing, because from my understanding, this would make a lot of the cities upset and I'm just divided on it," Arwood said.

Members of the Arizona Board of Regents have responded positively to the initiative. 

"Personally, I do appreciate the governor looking for innovative to help us solve our challenges at the universities," Regent Rick Myers said of Ducey's proposal. 

Sarah Harper, vice president of communications for ABOR, said she supports the plan despite mixed reception from local counties.

“Certainly there is a strong argument to be made that the very small local impact is more than made up for by the activity and investment generated by the construction and jobs that will be added,” Harper said.

Editor's note: James Arwood formerly wrote for The State Press. He was not involved with the production of this article. 

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