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.
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.