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.


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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January 2016

January 2016

2016 has started out with a bang!  Our legislative session started on January 11th, the governor released his budget proposal on January 15th, and I’ve introduced  legislation to help my constituents and the state.

1. The State Budget:

The Good News!: After years of struggling with structural deficits during the  recession, we have turned the ship around and are headed in the right direction. We have gone from a deficit of $3 Billion in the depths of the recession to a positive cash balance of $600 Million, plus we put away $460 Million in a Rainy Day Fund.

The Cautionary Tale: The state’s non-partisan budget analysts caution that we should increase ongoing spending by a maximum of $26 Million if we want to stay structurally balanced in future years.  Thus, calls for huge spending increases to replace cuts we made during the recession will put us back in the same spot we were before.

2.  Pension Reform Legislation: After a year of meetings with stakeholders, we have reached a deal to reform the police and firefighter pension system to make it sustainable for the employees and to protect the taxpayers. In next month’s update, I hope to report successful passage of the bill.  If passed, Arizona will lead the nation in pension reform.

3. Child Safety Legislation: I sponsored SB1142 to protect children and to help the Department of Child Safety reduce their backlogged cases.  As of December, there were still 14,000 cases unresolved and we do not know if the children involved are safe or not.  The legislature gave the agency $45 Million over the last two years  to eliminate the backlog and it is still not done. My legislation  requires the Department of Child Safety to outsource the backlogged cases to professional private providers.  The legislation has the support of virtually every senator.  See my interview with CBS 5 HERE.

4. Photo Radar Legislation: At the request of many of my constituents I am sponsoring SB1241 to prohibit photo radar cameras on state highways. There are only two left in the state.  One on Grand Ave and Primrose in El Mirage and the other in Star Valley near Payson.

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

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December 2015

December 2015

The Secret to Happiness:
I recently heard a speech based on research that determined that people who are thankful are happier.
I believe they are right.
I am thankful for what God has given me,
I am thankful for my family,
I am thankful for my job that gives me an opportunity to make a difference,
And I am thankful for YOU!
Whether you celebrate Christmas, celebrated Hanukkah, or celebrate another Holiday….Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season and a Wonderful New Year!

My Vacation to Israel:

My husband and I recently returned from a personal vacation to Israel. The trip was historic, spiritual, and impactful.  We visited Biblical sites, toured areas overlooking the Lebanon and Syrian


Lesko’s in Israel

borders, went inside a bomb shelter near the Gaza Strip that also served as school playground equipment, touched the Western Wall in Jerusalem, went into Palestinian territory when visiting Bethlehem, listened to a speech at an ancient amphitheater built by King Herod, and sailed the Sea of Galilee.
Unlike what many may think, we felt safe in Israel.  The security there is tight, almost everyone is a veteran since all men and women have to serve 2-3 years in the military, and one of the hotels we stayed at was housing a bunch of soldiers carrying their M-16’s. Eating buffet breakfast and riding on a hotel elevator with young men and women carrying rifles was a new experience for me!
Like all vacations, I am now happy to be home.  I am thankful that I was able to visit Israel and I am thankful that I get to celebrate Christmas with my family and friends.  The Legislative Session starts January 11th.   I’ve been busy working for months.  I’m sure I’ll have a lot of news for you in my next update.

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Education Funding Increase-Nov 2015

Education Funding Increase-Nov 2015

The State Legislature passed a package of legislation that will increase funding to schools by $3.5 Billion over 10 years and settle a years-old education funding lawsuit.   This was a win for the students, the Governor, the Legislature, and Republicans.  Interestingly, all of the House Democrats and all but three of the Senate Democrats voted against the package even though the AZ Education Association, which represents teachers from all over the state, and the AZ School Board’s Association support the plan.

The package of legislation, which was signed by the Governor, will:
1.     Increase funding to the schools by $3.5 Billion over the next 10 years using money from the State School Fund and the State’s General Fund and guarantee inflation adjustments for the future.  Specifics can be found HERE.
2.    Settle the years-old lawsuit, so that the legislature can move forward negotiating other reforms that will reward high performing schools, improve student performance and require a higher percentage of the money be used in the classroom and on teacher pay.
3.    Place the portion of the funding increase that comes from the State School Fund on the May 17, 2016 ballot for voters to approve.   Placing this on the ballot was legally necessary.
4.    Put in place protections in case the economy tanks and future adjustments need to be made.  Specific protections can be found HERE.

The legislature will be going back into its regular legislative session in January.  If you have ideas for legislation, please contact me at DLesko@azleg.gov or 602-926-5413.

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

Together, we can make a difference.

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Education Funding Q&A- October 2015

Education Funding Q&A- October 2015

EDUCATION FUNDING Q&A from constituents,
plus election info:

How much money do AZ public school districts get?
According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the AZ Dept. of Education, and the AZ Auditor General’s reports,

The state average = $9,096/student/year
Funding varies by school district depending on federal funding, student needs, etc.

I represent people that live in Peoria & Dysart School Districts.
Peoria Schools FY2014 average = $7,800/student/year
Dysart Schools FY2014 average = $8,500/student/year

If a class has 25 students,
$ Per classroom in Peoria = $195,000
$ Per classroom in Dysart = $212,500

Avg. Teacher Salary in Peoria = $41,500
Avg. Teacher Salary in Dysart = $47,000

Thus, the amount left per 25 student classroom AFTER teacher pay is deducted is:
Peoria Schools: $153,500 per classroom after teacher pay deducted
Dysart Schools: $165,500 per classroom after teacher pay deducted

My Property Taxes are too high. Why do the schools keep asking for override/bond tax increases?  Why did they ask for increases in the good financial times prior to the recession and budget cuts?  

Bond/Override elections have been around a long time in both good and bad financial times.  In many cases, like in Peoria and Dysart, voting yes will increase your property tax bill.   For details on your school’s override/bond election and how much it will affect your property taxes, visit your school district’s website or ask your elected school board members.

Does the legislature fund the schools enough?

K-12 education is, by far, our state’s largest expense.  This year the legislature voted to spend 42% of our state general fund on K-12 education.  The next highest expenses are 13% on healthcare for the poor and 11% on prisons. In comparison, CPS, which protects abused children, got 4%.  Note: In addition to the money that comes from the state legislature, schools also get property taxes, sales taxes, and federal funding.

The legislature and governor are currently looking at ways to increase education funding without raising taxes and without neglecting other areas, like CPS, which has asked for more money to protect abused children.

Unlike the federal government, the state legislature has to balance the state budget each year.  We need to balance the needs of the entire state.  If we give more in one place, we have to take it from somewhere else.  Although 2015 state revenues are higher than expected, much of the extra revenues came from capital gains and is not expected to continue, so it would be unwise to commit one time funds for ongoing expenses.

Why is so much of the override money being spent on a half day of kindergarten instead of for teachers in grades 1-12?  Why did the school superintendent get a raise if funds are so short?  
I suggest you contact your school board members on these questions.  They are the ones that vote on how the money we give them is spent.

Why is the legislature disputing the education funding lawsuit in court?

The legislature is fighting the education lawsuit in court because we believe we did the right and sensible thing during the recession.  In addition, the consequences of losing the lawsuit would wreak havoc on our state budget and force us to raise taxes or cut vital funding in other areas.  In 2000, the voters approved a ballot measure that requires the state to increase education funding by approximately 2% per year.   The law says that the increase can be based on the base funding level OR the school transportation funding level.  During the recession, the legislature based the increase on the less costly transportation funding level because we had limited funds.  Prior to that and since then, we paid on the higher amount and during the good times we even paid more.  The schools sued and it’s been in the courts ever since.

Override Election Info:
Mail-in Ballots: Mail in before Oct. 29th or drop off at polls on Nov. 3rd.
Nov. 3rd Polls open 6am-7pm. Bring ID.
Polling locator: (location is probably DIFFERENT than normal): http://recorder.maricopa.gov/pollingplace/

I hope this information helps you.  Feel free to contact me anytime at DLesko@azleg.gov or 602-926-5413.

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August 2015

August 2015

HEALTHCARE UPDATE: Governor Ducey’s new plan for AHCCCS, Arizona’s healthcare program for low-income citizens, promotes personal responsibility and helps encourage able-bodied adults to transition into careers.

Currently, 1 out of every 4 Arizona residents receives free healthcare through AHCCCS (AZ Healthcare Cost Containment System).  Of those, approximately 350,000 or 22% are able-bodied adults.  Able-bodied adults do NOT include children, the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women, the seriously mentally ill or single parents with children 6 or under.  Under the current system, recipients pay no insurance premiums and most pay no co-pays.

A.  Governor Ducey’s proposal requires able-bodied adults to:

1.  Pay up to 3% of their annual household income on co-pays for certain services.  For example, if the recipient goes to the emergency room for something a primary care doctor or urgent care could handle, a co-pay would be required.

2.  Pay up to 2% of their annual household income into a personal health savings account that can be used for non-covered services, like dental or vision care.

3. Enroll in school or training or actively seek employment if not already employed.

B.  Governor Ducey’s proposal includes adding apps, texts, and an online chat system, so that patients can receive text alerts for appointments, manage medications, and use chat to ask questions instead of waiting on hold or in long lines.

C.  The proposal also increases the use of modern tools to better detect fraud, waste, and abuse.

D.  Community meetings will be held on August 18th at the:
Disability Empowerment Center
5025 E Washington St, Suite 200, Phoenix, AZ 85034
Session 1: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 12:30-2:30 PM
Session 2: Tuesday, August 18th, 2015 3-5pm

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June 2015

June 2015


1.  I’m pleased that the Council of State Governments, a national organization comprised of legislators from across the nation, voted to include my roof-top solar consumer protection legislation, SB1465, in their suggested state legislation portfolio.

2.  To better understand my legislation and to hear my thoughts on the EPA’s proposed rule affecting Arizona, please click HERE to see my interview on E & E TV.

3.  APS is offering a new Solar Partner Program to 1,500 homes in select neighborhoods, including some areas in Sun City.  The homeowner gets rooftop solar at no cost to them plus a monthly bill credit of $30/month  for 20 years.   APS owns the system and covers the cost of installation and maintenance, so there are no lease payments or up front costs.

Participation in the program is limited to customer homes that:

·         Are located in specific neighborhoods
·         Have west to southwest-facing roofs with no significant shading
·         Have appropriate roofing materials such as typical shingle or flat concrete tile
·         Have enough roof space for solar panels
·         Do not already have rooftop solar

To learn more about this program and to see if your home qualifies, visit:aps.com/solarpartner

EDUCATION UPDATE:   How much does each student receive per year?

It seems like every news article I read claims different K-12 education funding levels in our state.  Some only report funding from the state general fund, but that is not an accurate picture. It is important that you understand how much students receive from all sources.

According to AZ Dept. of Education reports, total funding for district schools =
$9,096 /student per year in fiscal year 2014 *.

Funding breakdown per student per year in fiscal year 2014:
Local revenues including property taxes =         $4,155/student/year
County revenues =                                                   $   295/student/year
State Funding =                                                        $3,453/student/year
Federal Funding =                                                   $1,194/student/year
TOTAL =                                                                   $9,096/student/year

(*This is an average.  Some school districts receive more and some less depending on several factors)

Together, we can make a difference.


Debbie Lesko

Arizona State Senate
Legislative District 21

God Bless America 
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bbie Lesko | Arizona Senate 

1700 W. Washington St. S302 | Phoenix, AZ 85007 | 602-926-541

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May 2015

May 2015

May 2015

Water and Energy.  What can be more important in Arizona?  We rely on both every day. That is why I am passionate about these issues and why I requested and was assigned to serve on the Senate Water & Energy Committee where I work to help ensure that Arizona continues to have enough of both.

Does Arizona have enough water?

That is the question on a lot of people’s minds and one I had answered at a recent workshop I attended, presented by the AZ Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Project.

The answer is yes, at least for now.

Unlike California, which has imposed mandatory water restrictions, Arizona has done a much better job of planning for long term drought.  Here in Arizona , thanks to long-term planning and innovative water management, the state is prepared to handle the effects of the current drought.  In fact, Arizona has been planning for a potential shortage for decades and has stored excess water underground since 1996.

If the drought continues and Lake Mead falls below an elevation of 1075?, which may happen as early as 2016, then cut backs from the Colorado River to farmers in central Arizona will occur and water rates will increase, but water to city residents will not be reduced.

Will the EPA’s new proposed carbon rule affect utility customers in Arizona?

The answer is definitely yes.

Sometime this summer, the EPA is expected to decide if they will implement the new rule.  According to the Arizona Corporation Commission, the EPA’s plan will require all Arizona coal plants to shut down by 2020, adversely impacting the reliability of electric service and  jeopardizing national security.  Currently, coal produces 80% of Tucson Electric’s power, 53% of SRP’s power, and 40% of APS’s power. Solar can not make up the difference and converting to natural gas in that short of a time period may not be possible and will cost huge amounts of money.  This rule, if implemented by the federal government will dramatically increase our utility rates and negatively impact the economy of our state.  That is why I have been an outspoken critic of the rule and support Arizona’s intent to join other states in suing the federal government if the rule is implemented.

For more information, please contact me at DLesko@azleg.gov or 602-926-5413.

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State of Education in Arizona- Budget Update 4-16-15

State of Education in Arizona- Budget Update 4-16-15

The state of Education in Arizona – April 2015

K-12 Education makes of 43% of the state general fund spending.

Below is a list of spending by Agency:

Department:            Total:                       Percent:
K-12 Education    $ 3,889,569,400     42.6%
Universities    $ 666,900,700     7.3%
Corrections    $ 1,035,423,600     11.3%
AHCCCS    $ 1,205,197,900     13.2%
Health Services    $ 603,053,500     6.6%
Economic Security    $ 496,195,500    5.4%
Child Safety    $ 357,132,600     3.9%
Other    $ 872,381,400     9.6%
Total    $ 9,125,854,600     100.0%

K-12 Education Spending :
Fiscal Year    K-12 Funding    Percent Increase
FY 2012    $3,374,706,200    N/A
FY 2013    $3,464,988,900    2.68%
FY 2014    $3,667,831,200    5.85%
FY 2015    $3,808,392,700    3.83%
FY 2016    $3,889,569,400    2.13%

*Source: Joint Legislative Budget Committee

Key Points:
1)    Each budget cycle, the Legislature is tasked with setting priorities and determining how to spend the State’s precious resources that it receives from taxpayers. As you can see the state spends nearly half of its $9.1 billion budget on K-12 education and higher education.
2)    Since FY2012 the state has continued to invest more and more resources into K-12 education. As the economy continues to rebound more resources have been allocated to support our teachers, families and students.

Higher Education Funding:

Since Fiscal Year 2008, total funding to Community Colleges and Universities has increased $1.2 Billion.  In Fiscal Year 2016, because of budget constraints, the state reduced funding to Universities by $99 Million, which accounts for a 2% decrease of their total funding.

*Source: Joint Legislative Budget Committee

Key Points:
1)    During the Great Recession the state was forced to make hard choices, while still supporting strong investments in our higher education system.
2)    From FY2008 to FY2015 the state made $342 million in reductions to higher education, while the university system raised tuition by $832 million during that same time period. The university system increased tuition by more than double the level of reductions that occurred.
3)    Universities have seen an overall increase in revenues between FY2008 and FY 2015 of over $1 billion.

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