Statement from Senate Leadership on today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on health care

“We are disappointed that the Chief Justice and five other justices continue to uphold socialized medicine, ruling it constitutionally acceptable.

There is clear meaning in the law that subsidies are available only to people buying insurance on ‘an exchange established by the state’.  Arizona is one of several states that did not set up an exchange, and relied on the federal government exchange.

In his majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts acknowledged the clear meaning of that language, but then in essence said we should ignore what the law states, because of the ‘context and structure of the act’.

Affordable health care needs to be about the patient, and the federal government has shown us time and again that by inserting itself into health care delivery it harms the patient. As government’s role in health care expands, costs continue to rise and health care options are reduced. With today’s ruling, it now becomes clearer that the era of socialized medicine can only be ended with a legislative solution, repealing this fatally flawed law.”

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Sen. Barto named Senator of the Year by Small Business Group

Sen. Barto picSenator Nancy Barto received the Senator of the Year Award today from the National Federation of Independent Business/Arizona. NFIB honors two legislators each year for their efforts in assisting small business in our state.

The Arizona state director for NFIB says Senator Barto has been one of the staunchest champions of small business at the Arizona Legislature for almost a decade. “During the 2015 legislative session, Senator Barto took the lead to ensure that small businesses providing home support services for many of our most vulnerable Arizonans would continue free of unnecessary and destructive state government interference,” said Farrell Quinlan. “It is because of Nancy Barto’s leadership and faith in Arizona’s small business owners that countless thousands will continue to receive the care they need, especially as their services become more and more crucial with the Baby Boom Generation reaching retirement age.”

Senator Barto also received a trophy recognizing her leadership as a Guardian of Small Business. Rep. Warren Petersen was named 2015 Representative of the Year.

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Senator Allen, other lawmakers tour much of Eastern Arizona

Senator Allen

Senator Allen

Senator Sylvia Allen recently hosted a dozen fellow legislators, county supervisors and local leaders for the Eastern Arizona Counties Organization 2015 Field Trip. The trip enabled officials from across the state to see firsthand the state of our forests and the industries that rely on them.

The Eastern Arizona Counties Organization (ECO) is collaboration between Apache, Gila, Graham, Greenlee and Navajo Counties. ECO takes a leading role in natural resources and public lands management issues in Eastern Arizona.

The three day event in mid-May included a flyover of the C.C. Cragin Watershed near Payson, a field visit to a forest restoration project by Canyon Creek Logging and a tour of the Novo Power Biomass Power Plant near Snowflake. The elected officials also visited the Forest Energy wood pellet plant in Show Low, the Reidhead Brothers Lumber Mill in Nutrioso and Arizona Log and Timberworks in Eagar.

Sen. Allen Reidhead mill

“All of these industries and projects are critical to the health of the forest and to improving our watersheds and wildlife.  The bonus is the hundreds of jobs created and the revenue to local governments,” said Senator Allen.

Just 25 years ago, Arizona had a thriving timber industry, contributing $500 million and 11,000 direct jobs per year to the state’s economy.   Fifteen sawmills provided jobs and supported rural economies.  Then, excessive regulations and lawsuits brought all of that to a standstill.

Eco tour group

“What I saw last week was the re-birth of this industry,” said Senator Allen. “I also learned about the challenges of keeping the wood supply coming and the federal dollars needed for the studies that have to take place first before the work can be done.   Some of my neighbors and friends are putting all they have on the line to bridge the gap between timber sales and thinning projects.”

Among the issues discussed at the field trip was the need to make more acreage available for restoration projects, an increase in the maximum truck weight limit in Arizona and the importance of defensible space, as we approach fire season.

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After years of papering over imbalanced state budgets, the new Governor and Republican Leadership in the Legislature committed to achieving a structurally balanced budget.  A budget that spends only those monies that are available provides the state with fiscal stability, improves credit ratings, and establishes a better climate for businesses looking to expand.

As our state economy slowly continues to improve after the recession, there is a temptation to immediately expand state services. By holding to a conservative approach as revenues increase, Arizona will be in a stronger position to prioritize and allocate available resources to help the most crucial areas of our state.

  • Structurally Balanced Budget by FY 2018:
    • $717 million projected shortfall in FY 2015
    • $257 million projected shortfall in FY 2016
    • $125 million projected shortfall in FY 2017
    • $33 million projected positive structural balance in FY 2018.

Even as difficult decisions were made to produce a structurally balanced budget, leaders made sure K-12 education was not harmed. In fact, K-12 spending has a net increase of $105 million General Fund spending from FY 2015 to FY 2016. That growth is significant given that Arizona was facing a $1 billion deficit going into budget discussions.

  • K-12 – Overall Total K-12 Spending Increased by $105 million:
    • $91 million to fully fund formula increases
    • $85 million increase in K-12 inflation funding
    • $74 million for additional K-12 inflation funding
    • $0.5 million for Teach For America
    • $1.0 million for JTED Soft Capital

For the complete document, click here

Accomplishments of the 52nd Legislature 4-20-15

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Arizona’s pension system demands a solution

Into the Mind: Debbie Lesko discusses how to fix pensions without breaking the taxpayer bank.

 You’ve pulled together a committee to study the state’s pension systems. Why?

I am leading a pension study group specifically focused on the Arizona Public Safety Retirement System. The goal is to keep the public pension system sustainable without breaking the backs of the taxpayers. This is a critical time. Pension costs are skyrocketing. We need to figure out a way to protect retirement accounts for our valuable employees in a way that doesn’t eat up entire budgets.

Who is in the group?

Our study group is made up of a diverse group of people and interests. The group includes firefighter and law enforcement associations from across the state, the Free Enterprise Club, staff from the public safety retirement system, the League of Cities and Towns, the governor’s office, Republican and Democratic legislators from both the House and the Senate, the Reason Foundation and the Goldwater Institute.

For the rest of the story, click here:

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President Biggs appears on Arizona Horizon

Senate President Andy Biggs appeared on the Arizona Horizon program on April 8. He talked with host Ted Simons about the just-completed legislative session.

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Gov. Ducey signs into law Sen. Lesko’s bill helping AZ contractors

Sen. Lesko

Sen. Lesko

Governor Doug Ducey has signed into law SB 1446, a bill sponsored by Senator Debbie Lesko that will have a major positive impact on the way thousands of Arizona contractors do business.

The bill centers on how the work contractors do and the materials they use are taxed. Because of SB 1446, contractors who do maintenance, repair, replacement and qualified alteration jobs will not be required to have a Transaction Privilege Tax (TPT) license. The contractors will simply pay tax upfront as they buy their materials. The legislation also clarifies the process for contractors who keep their TPT license. This will greatly streamline the process for contractors, and the state will have much better control over revenues.

“I am so pleased to see this important bill become law in Arizona. This has been a continuing work in progress to reform TPT going back to 2012, so this has been three years in the making. We listened to all the parties involved and made changes when necessary. This finished product is a good example of legislation working for Arizonans,” said Senator Lesko.

With this law, Arizona now has a tax system that closely mirrors how contractors operate, with reduced risk for contractors and a simplified audit and tax payment process. Contractors will also now be able to interpret projects and bids the same way. Because of the learning curve to this new procedure, the law says if a contractor acts in good faith to properly report taxes, but was in error, there will be no interest, penalties or additional tax due.

“It is my intent to continue to work with the contractor community and the cities to move to a system where all contractors pay tax on only materials, just like what is already done in 46 other states,” said Sen. Lesko.

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