Fresh off announcing, with Governor Katie Hobbs, their intentions to prosecute fraudsters who victimized thousands of Tribal members and urban homeless individuals by confining them in illegitimate behavioral health centers and fleecing the State Medicaid program AHCCCS, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes appeared on the Bram Resnick Sunday Square Off Show earlier today (May 21, 2023,) to criticize the continuing of private school voucher expansion and to convey that her office will also set up a team to look into any allegations of fraud coming out of the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program.
When asked about the shortcomings of the bipartisan budget passed close to two weeks ago, the Attorney General brought up that the legislators and Governor Hobbs failed to address the growth of the ESA program, saying:
“They also failed to address the out-of-control Universal Voucher Program which is sucking up $300 million dollars, going to $500 million dollars soon, going to a billion dollars soon. I think they missed a huge opportunity.”
In an article announcing the Mayes interview, 12 News reminded readers that families that apply are eligible for a $7,000 scholarship and the enrollent figures, again mostly from existing private school families, has balloned from 12,000 to 56,000 students.
She also said, citing the many pork barrel projects in the budget to secure votes, it was “baloney” to individuals who said there was no funding to increase her offices budget.
On the ESA budget, Ms. Mayes said “Both sides should have done more… I don’t think it’s too much to compare the Universal Voucher Program to Alt-Fuels (from 23 years ago.) This is where that is headed. We’re looking at $500 million going to a billion dollars. This is taxpayer money that is now going to private schools…This is money being used by wealthy parents for their kids to go to private schools. That’s not what it was designed to do…
On looking into alleged fraud at the ESA program, the Attorney General said for the first time:
“We’re going to be looking at waste, fraud, and abuse. We’re going to take a hard look at this program and see…clearly there’s evidence of that already…in audits that have been done in the past by the Department of Education…There are no controls on this program. There’s no accountability and they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money and that needs to be looked at and I’m the state’s top law enforcement officer and I think it’s my responsibility to do that.”
On whether she has assigned lawyers and investigatords to probe potential fraud at the ESA program, Ms. Mayes replied:
“We’re taking a look at it internally to decide who should do this but yeah, we’re starting to look at it. We’ve had a couple of meetings about it…It’s a commitment to investigate. Absolutely!”