Senate President & House Speaker Announce Education Funding Plan

As part of an ongoing commitment to funding K-12 education, Senate President Andy Biggs and Speaker of the House David Gowan today announced a proposal to place additional money into classrooms across the state. The proposal uses four revenue streams that would infuse as much as $5 billion in new money over the next 10 years.

“K-12 funding has been one of our highest priorities in the budget each year, and as we climb out of the recession and see growing revenues, we see the opportunity to provide additional money for our classrooms, while still keeping state finances balanced,” said Senate President Andy Biggs.

The funding plan would be done without raising taxes on Arizonans, another priority for President Biggs and Speaker Gowan.

“In 2012 voters rejected a plan to raise taxes to fund education by an overwhelming margin. There clearly is no interest to increase taxes for this purpose. This proposal keeps faith with the voters by responsibly investing billions of dollars into Arizona’s classrooms without a tax hike,” said House Speaker David Gowan.

The new funding plan has four components: a commitment to continue a supplement to annual basic state aid which began in the last budget process, a new increase to annual basic state aid, a partial shift of money from the state’s First Things First program, and a plan to use increased earnings from the state trust land. In the first year alone, these four sources would bring $500 million in new money to the classroom and as much as $5 billion over the next decade.

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Senator Farnsworth to host town hall discussions

Sen. Farnsworth 2015Senator David Farnsworth will be hosting several town halls in his district, beginning with a discussion with residents on August 18 at Superstition Manor in east Mesa. The town hall begins at 7 p.m. at 10744 E. Brown Road.

Senator Farnsworth says these town halls will be a great opportunity to meet with ‘real people’. “Even though I have an open door policy at my office here at the Capitol, I know there are many people who are just not able to make the trip. With these gatherings, I am coming to you, to hear your concerns.”

Senator Farnsworth says there is no issue off-limits, big or small. “I want people to get involved in the political process, so we can help improve their lives. They’re discouraged, and feel the government is out of touch. I am going to listen to them and make sure they know they can make a difference,” said Senator Farnsworth, a Republican from Mesa.

In addition to the August 18 town hall, Superstition Manor will also host Farnsworth town halls on September 15 and October 20. Sen. Farnsworth will hold two town halls in Apache Junction, at Tres Banderas Restaurant, 1422 E Broadway Ave. at 7 pm August 27 and at the Hitching Post Bar and Grill, 2341 N Apache Trail on September 5 at 7 pm.

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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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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 52ND LEGISLATURE

Budget

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:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/2015/04/10/debbie-lesko-efforts-fix-state-pension-systems/25562009/

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