Budget Prioritizes Education

Budget Prioritizes Education

Great News! The Arizona legislature passed the state budget last week.  It is structurally balanced, prioritizes education, funds other important needs, and includes a tax cut for individual taxpayers.

Here are some highlights:

  • Balanced budget with a tax cut for individuals
  • Increases funding to K-12 education by $353M
  • Provides a 2% teacher raise over 2 years in addition to any raises the school districts gave. (For example, this school year the Peoria School teachers got a 6.81% raise on-going, plus 3.18% one-time and an additional .5% from Prop 301 sales tax revenue increase)
  • Rewards high-performing schools
  • Provides $ for new school construction and repairs
  • Provides funding for local roads
  • Increases funding to the people that take care of the developmentally and physically disabled and elderly
  • Increases funding to protect the elderly from abuse
  • Increases funding to the universities
  • Provides funding to test backlogged rape kits
  • Provides funding to increase adoptions
  • Funds diversion programs for drug-users so they won’t end up in prison

Find greater details HERE

Please contact me anytime with questions, comments or input at DLesko@azleg.gov or 602-926-5413.

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April 2017

April 2017

I’m working hard at the AZ State Capitol.  In addition to working on the state budget…here is some of the legislation I’ve sponsored:

SB1441 gives patients that have received a “surprise” medical bill from an out of network doctor a way to settle the bill. Click HERE to view an interview with me on Channel 3 TV on Your Side.

SB1431, my ESA legislation, provides another option for parents to find the best education for their child. Click HERE for a quick video.

SB1442, my pension reform legislation, will help make the Correction Officer Retirement Plan sustainable for the employees and reduce risk to the taxpayer. The current plan is 53% funded.  It is supposed to be funded at 100%.  This effort follows my success at reforming the police and fire pension plan last year.

SB1327 initiates the establishment of a Gold Star Family memorial at Wesley Bolin Plaza by the state capitol. The memorial will honor military members killed in action and their families.  Governor Ducey signed the bill into law.

Please feel free to contact me with questions or comments at DLesko@azleg.gov or 602-926-5413.

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Lesko Legislative Update 2-19-17

Lesko Legislative Update 2-19-17

Legislative Update from Senator Debbie Lesko:

  1. K-12 EDUCATION: The amount our state is spending on public education continues to increase every year and students are making improvements in national scores.  Public schools get money from different pots.  They get money from the state general fund, property taxes including bonds and overrides, Prop. 301 sales tax, Prop. 123 (which will add $300 M this year alone), federal tax dollars, and other sources. In fact, half of our entire state general fund budget is spent on education. Funding from all sources averaged $9,500/student/year in fiscal year 2016.
  1. ESAs: While we continue to increase our support for public schools, a majority of the legislature and the governor also advocate for parental choice that allow parents to choose the best education for their child. We believe we can do both. In keeping with that belief, I am sponsoring legislation, SB1341, that will expand eligibility for the ESA program to all AZ students phased in over a four-year period. ESAs provide parents 90% of what a public school would have received for that child.  The money can be spent on a menu of educational choices including private schools. The program’s enrollment growth is capped at about 5,500 students per year and the program includes academic and fiscal accountability.  Since the total amount spent per public school student = $9,500/student/year and the ESA for a non-special needs student = $5,600/yr, there is also a savings to the taxpayer. Although critics have cherry picked a budget report that only focuses on one pot of school funding money (the state general fund), they have failed to look at the whole school funding picture that includes property taxes that go directly to district public schools and don’t go into the state general fund.

Click HERE for a fiscal analysis. Click HERE for a JLBC budget Memo that compares school choice costs.

  1. SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLING: My legislation, SB1441, passed out of the Senate Finance Committee unanimously with both Republican and Democratic support.  The legislation will help patients that receive “Surprise Medical Bills” from out-of-network providers.
  1. PENSION REFORM: I am continuing my work on reforming our state’s public pension systems.  They are underfunded and unsustainable.  This year my legislation, SB1442, will help sustain and reform the Correction Officers retirement plan, which is comprised of Correction and Probation officers.
  1. As always, please contact me with any comments or suggestions. I can be reached at 602-926-5413 or DLesko@azleg.gov
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JLBC memo on School Choice Cost Comparison 2-17-17

JLBC memo on School Choice Cost Comparison 2-17-17

Joint Legislative Budget Committee
Staff Memorandum
1716 West Adams Telephone: (602) 926-5491
Phoenix, Arizona 85007 azleg.gov
DATE:
February 17, 2017
TO:
Senator Debbie Lesko
FROM:
Matt Beienburg, Fiscal Analyst
SUBJECT:
REQUESTED SCHOOL CHOICE COST COMPARISON
This memo responds to your request for a comparison of what it would cost for school district students to switch to the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program under SB 1431 (empowerment scholarships; expansion; phase-in) versus what it would cost if they instead switched to charter schools.
Estimated Impact
Our fiscal note for SB 1431 assumes that 2,300 school district students would switch from district schools to ESAs under the bill in FY 2018 at an estimated net new state cost of $1,840,000. If they instead all switched to charter schools, as you posed in your question, the estimated net new state cost would be $3,220,000, or $1,380,000 higher.
The corresponding higher amounts for the subsequent 3 years would be $3,420,000 for FY 2019, $7,260,000 for FY 2020 and $12,480,000 for FY 2021.
Analysis
Our fiscal note for SB 1431 estimates that 2,300 students would switch from district schools to ESAs under the bill in FY 2018. It likewise estimates that the cumulative number of school district students switching to ESAs under the bill would be 5,700 by FY 2019, 12,100 by FY 2020, and 20,800 by FY 2021.
The General Fund cost of these students switching from a district school to the ESA program is approximately $800 per student. If these students were to instead switch to charter schools, the General Fund cost would be approximately $1,400 per student.
This differential would yield approximately $1,380,000 in FY 2018 (2,300 students X $600 = $1,380,000), $3,420,000 in FY 2019 (5,700 students X $600 = $3,420,000), $7,260,000 in FY 2020 (12,100 students X $600 = $7,260,000), and $12,480,000 in FY 2021 (20,800 students X $600 = $12,480,000).
(Continued)
– 2 –
Local Government Impact
There would be no net local government impact from school district students switching to charter schools rather than ESAs under this analysis, as both charter schools and the ESA program are funded with state General Fund, rather than local resources.
RS:kp
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Richard Stavneak, Director

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ESA (SB1431) Fiscal Analysis 2-26-17

ESA (SB1431) Fiscal Analysis 2-26-17

ESA Fiscal Analysis (SB1431):
·    ESAs provide another option for parents to choose the best education for their child
·    ESAs save taxpayer money (See A below)
·    ESAs cost less to the State General Fund than if a student moved from a district school to a charter school.  (See B below)
·    The savings to the state general fund from special needs students moving to an ESA from a public school help offset state general fund costs. (See C below)
Evidence:
1.    The JLBC fiscal note on my ESA bill only covers the effect on the State General Fund. But, the state general fund is only one portion of taxpayer $ spent on schools.
2.    Avg. total $ spent per student in public district school = $9,529/yr.
3.    ESA for a non-special needs child = $5,600/yr.
4.    District Schools get taxpayer $ from the state general fund, federal $, Prop. 301 sales tax $, plus override, bond & other local property taxes.
5.    Charter Schools get taxpayer $ from the state general fund, federal $, Prop. 301 sales tax $.  Charters get more $ from the state general fund since they cannot issue overrides & bonds, but get less total overall $ per student than district schools.
6.    Cost/ (Savings) to State General Fund if:
a.    District student moves to a charter school = $1,400/student/year more
b.    District student moves to an ESA = $800/student/year more
c.    Charter student moves to an ESA = $(600) savings per student/year
d.    Special Needs student moves from district to ESA = $(1,400) savings per student/year
e.    Special Needs student moves from charter to ESA = $(2,700) savings per student/year
7.    Avg. Override taxes (only district schools receive) = $585/student
8.    Avg. Bond taxes (only district schools receive) = $981/student
Analysis:
A.    ESA’s save taxpayer $:
a.    $9,529-$5,600 = $3,929/student/year is quick math (Savings include all taxes including federal)
b.    But let’s say that we don’t account for the $1,000/student in federal $ savings, there is still a taxpayer savings.  Example: If a District student moves to an ESA it will cost the state general fund $800/student, but saves override taxes of $585/student immediately because that amount is linked to student count and bond taxes of $981/student over time due to the lack of need to build additional space.  If a charter student moves to an ESA it saves the state general fund $600/student.

B.    ESAs are LESS costly to the state general fund than Charter Schools.  If the same # of students estimated to leave district schools in the JLBC fiscal note moved to a charter school instead of using an ESA, it would cost the state general fund $600/student/yr MORE than using an ESA.  Per the JLBC memo attached, it would cost the SGF $1.4 M more in FY18, $3.4M more in FY19, $7.3 M more in FY20, and $12.5M more in FY21 if the same # of students moved to a charter school instead of using an ESA. In addition, charter School enrollment growth is not capped and have continued to grow between 6% and 10% each year.  ESA enrollment growth is capped at about 5,500 students/yr.

C.    Savings to the State General Fund from Special Needs students using ESA’s help offset costs of non-special needs students using ESAs.  Savings to state general fund is $1,400/student/yr. if moving from a district school and $2.700/student/yr. if moving from a charter school.  Since special needs students already qualify for ESAs those savings were not included in my bill’s fiscal note, but are important to consider when analyzing the entire program.

D.    Prop. 301 $ = $300-$450/student/year.  IF the student count in public schools decreases as a result of ESAs it leaves more Prop. 301 $ per student in district and charter schools.
(All $ figures from JLBC and Senate staff)

AZ Senator Debbie Lesko
Senate President Pro-Tempore
602-926-5413, Dlesko@azleg.gov

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December 2016

December 2016

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
I wish all of you a happy, healthy and blessed 2017.

2016 was a good year at the Arizona legislature.  We increased funding for education, reformed the firefighter and police pension plan, passed legislation to grow jobs in Arizona, and focused on promoting free markets and limiting burdensome regulations.

The 2017 legislative session starts on January 9th.  I will be serving as Senate President Pro-Tempore and Appropriations Chairman.  One of my duties as the Appropriations Chairman is to help balance the state budget.

Two recent events have made balancing the state budget more challenging.  The passage of Proposition 206, which raises the minimum wage, will cost the state general fund at least $25 Million extra this year and the adverse ruling by the courts in the Hall Case against pension reforms done five years ago, will cost the state $10 Million this year alone.

When voters passed Proposition 206 I don’t know if they realized that the extra cost to increase the wages for state-funded care-givers for the elderly and disabled and for entry level school workers would have the effect of diverting money from other important priorities like raising classroom spending.  The legislature had no control over the passage of Prop. 206 and the legislature had no control over the court ruling, but it is the legislature that has to fix the problem.

So when the unexpected happens, the state has to do the same thing a family does when unexpected costs occur…we re-prioritize, figure out where we can shave off spending in some places to add it in others.  It is a challenge, but one that can be done and will be done.

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November 2016

November 2016

Thank you for re-electing me to the Arizona State Senate!  I am truly blessed to have the support of so many great people and to work at a job where I can make a positive difference in our state and nation.

Our legislative session starts on January 9th 2017.  I am honored that I have been named Senate President Pro-Tempore and Senate Appropriations Chairman.  I will also serve as chairman of the Joint Committee on Capital Review, Vice Chairman of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and a member of the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

In 2017 my priority will be to balance the state budget in a way that provides good quality services to the people in our state, but also ensures that government lives within its means.

I also plan to continue my work on pension reform. In 2016 my legislation reformed the firefighter and police pension plan, savings taxpayers’ millions.  In 2017 I plan on introducing legislation that will reform the Correction Officers Retirement Plan.

I am also working on a problem commonly referred to as “Surprise Medical Billing.”  It is not fair that a patient who has worked hard to make sure a surgery is covered by his/her insurance receives a surprise bill from an “out of network”  anesthesiologist or radiologist that the patient had no control in selecting.

Every year I have also sponsored legislation to solve a problem brought to my attention by a constituent.  If you believe there is problem that needs legislation to solve, contact me.

If you would like me to speak to your group or you want a tour of the state capitol, let me know.

Contact me anytime at Dlesko@azleg.gov or 602-926-5413.

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Nov. 8th Ballot Measures

Nov. 8th Ballot Measures

Nov. 8th Ballot Measures:

Note: None of these ballot measures were referred to the ballot by the legislature and the legislature cannot change the ballot measures with a majority vote even if there are unintended consequences with the ballot measures.

  1. Proposition 205 legalizes recreational marijuana in Arizona.  Prop 205 language and pro and con statements begin on page 16 at THIS LINK.
  2. Proposition 206 increases the minimum wage to $12/hour.  Prop 206 language and pro and con statements begin on page 58 at THIS LINK.
  3. Peoria School District $198 Million Bond will cost an avg. homeowner $203/year for the next 26 years according to the voter pamphlet (for a home valued at $250k). Most of the money will be used to build two new schools in north Peoria.  The state will fund the building of new schools when the district reaches student capacity.  The school district did not request state funding for the new schools.  The school district is not near student capacity. Three school board members voted to place this bond on the ballot and two school board members, Judy Doane and Beverly Pingerelli, voted against placing the bond on the ballot suggesting that if the approximately 2,000 students attending PUSD schools from outside the district were sent back to their home schools/districts, there may not be a need to build new schools.
  4. City of Peoria’s Prop 400 will increase sales tax to 8.5% on retail purchases, 10% on utilities, and 9.5% at Restaurants & Bars. Food tax will increase to 2%. Money is slated to be used primarily for open space, a cultural center, a recreation center and an aquatic center in north Peoria.
  5.  West-MEC’s $141 Million Bond will be  used primarily to construct and equip new and current career and technical education facilities.
  6. City of Surprise’s $63 Million Bond‘s top two expenses are for a recreation complex and an aquatic center expansion.
  7. Sun City Fire District $10 Million Bond will be used primarily for new equipment, vehicles, and a new fire station.

Governor Ducey and the state legislature work hard to fund vital state programs without raising taxes. This year local governments have placed numerous measures on the November 8th ballot that, if passed, will increase taxes.  It is important that you realize that the legislature cannot control these tax increases if the voters pass them.

I encourage you to research these ballot measures. Please contact me anytime at DLesko@azleg.gov or 602-926-5413.

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April 2016- Prop 123 & 124

April 2016- Prop 123 & 124

Why I VOTED YES to refer Propositions 123 and 124 to the ballot:

A. Proposition 123 (Education Funding): Republicans and Democrats in the AZ Legislature voted to refer Proposition 123 to the ballot in order to increase funding for K-12 education and to resolve a long-standing lawsuit. The legislation is a result of negotiations with the schools, teachers, legislature, and governor’s office.

I voted YES to refer this to the ballot because:

  • It adds $3.5 Billion to K-12 education over 10 years without increasing taxes.
  • $2.2 Billion comes from increased distributions from the state land trust which is in place to help fund education.
  • $1.325 Billion comes from the legislature’s decision to increase state general funds to education and reallocations.
  • Protections are added to ensure that state trust land assets are protected for the future. The state land trust ending balance is projected to increase from the current $4.8 Billion to $6.2 Billion by 2025 even after the increased distribution to schools.
  • For more information see these non-partisan analysis reports:

Analysis by Legislative Council

Fiscal Impact Summary by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee

B. Proposition 124 (Pension Reform): Proposition 124 is the result of the legislation I sponsored and worked on for over a year. It passed out of the Senate unanimously and out of the House overwhelmingly.

I voted YES to refer Proposition 124 to the ballot because:

  • It protects and sustains the fire fighter and police pension system.
  • It saves taxpayers over $1.5 Billion.
  • It saves the cities, counties, and state money so more law enforcement and police can be hired.
  • This proposition is a result of over one year of negotiations with the fire fighters, police, cities, counties, Republican and Democratic legislators, and the governor’s office.
  • For more information see these non-partisan analysis reports:

Analysis by Legislative Council

Fiscal Impact Summary by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee

C.  The election for Prop 123 & 124 is on May 17th or by early ballot.  For voting information, visit Maricopa Co. Elections

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Feb. 2016

Feb. 2016

I am very pleased that my pension reform legislation, SB1428, passed out of the legislature with bipartisan support, was signed by the governor, and will be on the May 17th ballot!  After one year of negotiations with fire fighter and law enforcement associations, Republican and Democratic legislators, cities, counties, and the governor’s office we got it done!  This reform will help sustain the retirement system for our fire fighters and police and save taxpayers over $1.5 billion.  I highly encourage you to vote yes on May 17th.

Lesko,BiggsPensionReform

photo by AZ Capitol Times

I’m thankful to my fellow senators for unanimously supporting my legislation, SB1142, to help the Department of Child Safety reduce the backlog in inactive and uninvestigated cases. These cases stem from complaints of child abuse and neglect and we need to know if these children are safe.  The legislation requires the department to outsource the backlogs to professional private providers.  At the end of December 2015, there were over 13,000 backlogged cases even though the legislature appropriated $45 million over the last 2 years to solve the problem.  This legislation will help reduce the backlog and allow DCS caseworkers the time to investigate new complaints.
SB1241, my legislation to prohibit photo radar cameras on state highways, passed out of the Senate and will be heard in the House this week.   There are only two cameras left on state highways.  One on Grand Ave. placed there by the City of El Mirage and the other on Hwy 260 east of Payson placed there by the Town of Star Valley.  Constituents in my district have overwhelmingly told me they oppose photo radar on state highways. I believe the legislature, not the cities, should determine if photo radar belongs on state highways.
Please feel free to contact me anytime at DLesko@azleg.gov or 602-926-5413.   I love my job and I’d love to hear from you.

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