Is the Arizona Legislature Gambling with the State’s Fiscal Future?
As reported by the Arizona Republic’s Mary Jo Pitzl , enrollment in the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program is expected to far exceed the projections assumed in the budget. In late May, the Department of Education estimated next year’s cost at $900 million, $448 million more than included in the budget passed earlier that month.
The ESA program, often referred to as the state’s voucher program, was supposed to save the state money. Instead, it’s likely the program will end up costing the state more because of how school funding in Arizona works, how the voucher program was designed, and whether or not the students receiving the vouchers are coming from an Arizona public school.
This surge in ESA vouchers is occurring at the same time Arizona’s general fund revenues have dropped, almost entirely due to the new flat income tax. As of the end of May, year-to-date revenues were $175 million below the projections assumed in the budget passed earlier that month. While the fiscal year is new, Arizona’s policymakers need to be paying attention and planning for what they will do should expenditures exceed revenues, especially since the new budget assumes an ending balance of less than $8 million.
Click here to learn more about the history and issues regarding Empowerment Scholarship Accounts.
Both PDF of the articles provided by AZ Central. Written by Mary Jo Pitzl from Arizona Republic. Access online articles here with subscription.