Legislative Update from Senator Debbie Lesko:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- As always, please contact me with any comments or suggestions. I can be reached at 602-926-5413 or DLesko@azleg.gov