Ariz. budget that proposed eliminating funding for student publications vetoed

ARIZONA – Gov. Janet Napolitano last month vetoed a proposed 2006 state budget that contained a footnote denying state funding to university publications and sent the budget back to the House and Senate for revisions.

The legislators in support of the footnote–added to the budget after two university student newspapers published sexually oriented photographs and columns last year–acknowledge that the footnote wields only symbolic power, as the newspapers meant to be addressed receive no state funding.

The legislature submits a collection of bills for the governor’s approval that comprise the state budget. Napolitano, a Democrat, vetoed 16 budget bills on March 21 and the final bill in the series on March 28. She did not mention the footnote in her objections to the budget, instead focusing on its failure to provide adequate funding for full-day kindergarten and to the Department of Water Resources during drought season.

Rep. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, added the footnote that specifies “no state funding for university student newspapers” to the budget on March 8. Constituents complained of offensive content in two of the largest state universities’ student publications, The Associated Press reported. In 2004, the Arizona State University’s weekly State Press magazine featured a front-page photograph of a woman’s bare breast with a pierced nipple; the Northern Arizona University weekly Lumberjack published a column about oral sex.

A representative from Pearce’s office, who declined to be named, said he is not commenting on the footnote.

“He doesn’t really want to talk about this,” she said. “This really was not an issue that he brought forward. It was other members that came to him with the issue and he went ahead and supported the budget footnote for it.”

Sen. Karen Johnson (R-Mesa), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the idea for the footnote originated in the Senate and that other Republican legislators received complaints from constituents.

“There were several of us that felt [the footnote should be added],” she said.

She said all eight Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee voted in favor of the budget, as did 18 of the 30 Republican senators. The footnote remained intact after reviews on the House and Senate floors before the budget moved to Napolitano’s desk.

Johnson said the footnote only targets the state’s three public universities: University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University. The footnote does not affect community college publications, many of which rely entirely on state funding.

The targeted schools’ publications receive no state money. The UA Daily Wildcat and the Northern Arizona Lumberjack support themselves through advertising and the ASU State Press receives only 10 percent of its revenue from the university.

“The 10 percent of the State Press that is not advertising revenue is from local funds, which is tuition money, not state funds,” said Kristin Gilger, director of student media at ASU.

Johnson said the legislators who support the footnote realize it serves only a symbolic purpose.

“It’s not going to keep [the students] from going ahead and printing their newspapers,” she said. “It sends a very, very strong message that needs to be sent. [The newspapers] had smut, pornographic stuff talking about how to hook up with people and how to have different trysts going on during the week–how many [people] you could score with. These are just not things that our constituents want their tax dollars going towards.”

Johnson and Rep. Steve Gallardo (D-Tolleson), who opposes the footnote, agreed that it played little part in Napolitano’s decision to veto the proposed budget.

“She has stated adamantly that she wants the funding for full-day kindergarten,” Gallardo said. “It’s probably her No. 1 priority.”

Gallardo said he and his fellow Democrats are mounting opposition to the budget because of the footnote and cuts to health services–”a lot of programs that are near and dear to our hearts,” he said.

“[Democrats] think the First Amendment extends to university papers,” Gallardo said. “We totally support allowing them to do what they’re there to do and that is to report the news.”

Gov. Napolitano could not be reached for comment.

Johnson said she expects the legislature to submit a revised budget to Napolitano by the end of next week. It is not clear whether the footnote will appear in the new budget.

–By Kate Campbell

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