New Senate President Steve Yarbrough strikes out on legislative priorities

Yesterday we covered the new Speaker of he House in the Arizona legislature, Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Gilbert. New House Speaker J.D. Mesnard strikes out on legislative priorities.

Today the AP interviews the new Senate President in the Arizona legislature, Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler.  Another batter strikes out looking at 3 pitches. New Arizona Senate president talks top issues, challenges:

Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-ChandlerArizona’s new Senate President Steve Yarbrough sat down with The Associated Press to discuss his view of the job and the top legislative issues in the coming year. Answers have been edited for length.

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Question: So what are your [legislative] priorities?

Answer: I’m not sure we’re going to get these things necessarily fixed in the first year, but the public safety pension retirement system, that decision by a quasi-version of the state Supreme Court is really, really problematic. (A panel of judges, sitting as the state Supreme Court, ruled this year that the Legislature can’t boost employee pension contributions. See, Arizona pension ruling could mean $220 million in refunds to some workers). If we can’t adjust the contribution rate to prevent the plan from falling into insolvency, that is a big problem.

Sooo, once again our lawless Tea-Publican legislature did something in violation of the Arizona Constitution for which they will now have to pay restitution to the victims, and Sen. Yarbrough’s concern is how to get out of paying the restitution.

It is not the first time our lawless Tea-Publican legislature has done this. In 2012, our lawless Tea-Publican legislature was forced to repeal a pension reform law from ALEC and the Goldwater Institute heavily promoted by The Arizona Republic after the court struck it down as unconstitutional, then had to restore the previous funding system of a 50-50 split between the state and its workers. The Arizona Republic’s unconstitutional pension reforms finally repealed.

Two years ago the court struck down another provision of the same law referenced by Sen. Yarbrough that reduced the automatic cost-of-living increases for retired judges.

The Arizona Constitution protects public employee pensions from impairment of contracts, and violation of the fiduciary obligations of the pension fund manager (Arizona) to the fund beneficiaries. The only way to change the funding formula is through a constitutional amendment approved by the voters — something the voters have routinely rejected. Arizona has long underfunded its public employee pension system, just like everything else in this state.

So what about the top legislative priority of Arizonans, public education funding? Funny you should ask, because the AP did not.

Remember, this is Sen. Steve Yarbough, Arizona’s most corrupt state senator who uses his position to write charter school bills to steer state funding to his Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization in order to benefit himself financially. Outlook for the ‘next step’ in public education funding is not good.

So the AP naturally asked him this question:

Question: Major schools voucher expansions have failed in the past couple of years, and they failed because people in your own caucus believe public schools are underfunded. Is there’s something that can move there?

Answer: I don’t buy at all that you have to be one or the other in this whole process. I think you can be a strong advocate of school choice and simultaneously a strong advocate of funding for K-12 public schools, be it district schools or charter schools or online charter schools. So I think that you can do the best you can for funding our public schools while simultaneously moving the school choice needle further down the road. If we can’t do universal (vouchers) would I support another incremental step? I absolutely would.

Like I said yesterday, if there is any movement on school funding next year, it will likely be a legislative attempt to steer tax dollars to private and parochial schools, something the Arizona Constitution expressly prohibits. I can almost guarantee you that Cathi Herrod and the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) will be back with its demands for expanded (universal) school vouchers for all children, and it will get a hearing not only because Sen. Yarbrough wants it, he would personally benefit financially from it.

Whether universal school vouchers can pass or not remains to be seen. (There will be a constitutional legal challenge if enacted).

So what about Governor Ducey’s long overdue “next step” in additional public education funding? The AP sorta asked the question this way:

Question: You only have about $24 million in available new cash projected to be available in a $9.6 billion budget next year. That’s a drop in the bucket in a state with lots of unfunded needs.

Answer: $24 million is a lot for you and me but it’s not very much, its crumbs, in a state budget. It’s really problematic in my view. But understand there’s $315 million in new money that’s going to go to K-12 education by formula. So the $24 million that we might like to use for example to move forward on all-day kindergarten or spend more money at the department of child safety … if that’s the number … that we’re working from I hope we don’t spend too much time doing it. It’s like, take one, move on.

Like I said yesterday, the goal will be to pit interests groups against one another to fight over their slice of the budget pie, not to increase the size of the budget pie. Here, Yarbrough is pitting advocates of all-day kindergarten against the troubled department of child safety.

Governor Ducey’s State of The State Address in January is likely to simply propose moving pots of money around without increasing tax revenues to pay for increased public education funding. Yarbrough is suggesting the same thing — there is a limited pot of money.

There is little reason to believe that Rep. Heather Carter’s so-called “grand plan” to infuse major new dollars into K-12 education and the university and community college system has any realistic chance of passage or being signed by the governor. School reforms lack funding.

What a pair of winners we have in the GOP leadership.

3 responses to “New Senate President Steve Yarbrough strikes out on legislative priorities

  1. John Huppenthal

    “Choice as a goal is ridiculous.” Let me respond.

    Not every school can be excellent for every child. The randomness of personalities and abilities spread out over the combinations possible in a single school make it impossible. It is only through school choice that you can evolve to a system which creates excellence for every child.

    How close have we come to perfection in our existing, no choice system?

    To examine that question, we should look to the bottom ten percent because, in theory, the system exists to serve them, to give them a free “education.”

    At the fifth grade, these students read 2 minutes a day and do math 2 minutes a day. They do so little, practice so little, because they withdraw from a system that drowns them with humiliation and failure every day.

    This is the system you are trying to protect, a system that victimizes, terrorizes and stigmatizes millions of the most vulnerable every single day.

  2. Choice as a goal is ridiculous. People chose Trump, so obviously choice does not always foretell a positive goal or outcome.
    The AZ Republic revealed that most of the $140M in vouchers go to well-to-do parents in K-12 districts that perform well academically. This is welfare for the wealthy, while public schools languish with poor funding. But it’s the Arizona Way. We are enduring 23 yrs + 2 of a majority Republican legislature. Arizonans say they want more K-12 funding, but they send the same tightfisted people back to the lege every year. (East Valley is a true problem.) Term limits? Just move to the other chamber. Steve Yarbrough is the perfect example. He “served” in the House from 2003 to 2011. Since 2011, he has “served” in the Senate. He will have “served” 16 yrs, and a full cohort of kids will have moved from half day funded Kinder to under-funded 12th grade graduation during his tenure.
    It’s really too bad for the kids AND the AZ economy.

  3. Frances Perkins

    There is nothing “public” about the charter school industry, other than receiving taxpayer money. The taxpayer has no say in their operations, no say in their procurement practices, no say in who is in their boards, no right to ask how much they make in profits, cannot ask how much they spend on “teacher improvement funds” or even where the money goes. So if Steve gets a raise based on public funds, you don’t have to know and have no say in it.