I am honored to serve the residents of Nez Perce and Lewis Counties as their representative in the Idaho House. Since first being elected in 2004, I have tried to bring reason and moderation to the House, and carry information from Boise back home. Please explore the site, send me comments or information, or sign up to volunteer on my campaign.
Things have improved in Idaho since the depths of the Great Recession. But in spite of this, many indicators point to continued economic stress on Idaho families:
- Idaho average wages are worst in the United States
- More Idaho kids live in poverty than in years past
- More minimum wage jobs–Only Tennessee has a higher percentage than Idaho. We are ranked 50 of 51.
Good jobs and business growth depend on a number of factors. First in most people’s mind is usually low taxes. But more important than low tax rate (especially if state revenue cannot meet other needs) is a stable, predictable tax structure so that employers can project with some clarity the future and allow them to build an effective business plan.
Equally important, especially for the 21st century economy, is the educated and skilled workforce. The rest of the world is developing the technology-savvy workers international markets require for successful products. Good public schools, community colleges and universities, affordable and with the capacity to meet workforce development needs, is essential. Better integration of the skill sets our education system produces with the needs of our businesses is important.
Attractive communities that make it a pleasure to keep your family in Idaho are also important. Often referred to as “quality of life”, this includes recreation opportunities but also vibrant cities and towns. That means re-investing in the municipal infrastructure and services that families and businesses require. The telecommunications infrastructure and the system of roads and rails are other important factors for businesses. Who would look twice at a locating a business somewhere without good road access or robust cell and broadband service?
Finally, expanding business and making more jobs requires the availability of credit or equity financing, especially difficult for smaller businesses right now. We need support for start-ups and small /medium business financing programs. Economic development often is viewed as attracting a big employer to move in. Those “home runs” are rare. Most job growth comes from existing companies, and having the telecom and transportation, the workforce and attractive communities, as well as a transparent and stable tax system, will help us grow good jobs.
Since 2008, American health care has been in turmoil. Accounting for 18% of all goods and services in the US economy, it is massive–and a significant factor of business and government costs, of family financial decisions, and of communities and their viability.
Things continue to change:
- The Affordable Care Act has restructured health insurance. I believe our State exchange serves Idaho purchasers well, but we need to look at other opportunities to expand coverage. With less uninsured individuals, there will be less “cost shift” to those having insurance and better health and productivity of Idaho workers.
- Transformational activities offer real opportunities to improve quality and to control costs. Things like Medical Homes, Telemedicine, and data-driven decisions will improve value and health outcomes.
- Idaho is catching up on health delivery system changes–EMS and trauma services (we will no longer be one of 2 states without an organized system), prescription drug abuse, immunization financing (with a process that saves Idahoans millions of dollars each year), and new models of physician and hospital payment focused on outcome not number of services.
- Mental health and Substance use disorder services continue to be insufficient and poorly funded.
I am pleased to have initiated or lead several of these projects, and hope to be able to continue using my experience and expertise to help Idahoans.
The last four years have been tumultuous for public schools:
- The “Luna Laws” (Students come first) caused massive uproar, anger, and debate, and a voter repeal of those legislative actions. Fortunately, a more collaborative approach followed, and there is now a shared vision for public schools developed by a broad coalition of parents, teachers, administrators and local school board members.
- Funding has not followed the vision. We are now last in the nation on per student funding for K-12. Even though there was a small increase in the 2015 budget as compared to 2014, when one considers the increase in students in Idaho we are almost $150 Million behind where we were in 2008.
- Common core standards were adopted by Idaho educators (and endorsed by the legislature) 4 years ago as a tool to assure that students were learning what they should. I think having standards is important, and the Common Core standards were developed by educators. Standards are appropriate, but measurements of performance must be appropriate as well.
- The low rate of Idaho students that “go on” to higher education after high school–both baccalaureate and technical classes–needs improvement. Accelerating tuition costs has hurt–families in a low income state cannot afford tuition increases of 6-10% year after year when incomes remain flat. We have few scholarship dollars for those needing help and that should change if we wish our kids to have the opportunity for a 21st century future.
One of the most frequent comments I hear is “Why can’t Government (Congress, the Legislature, “you guys”) work together and get things done for us? Where is your sense of the common good?”
It has been a goal of mine during the years I have been in the Legislature representing the citizens of our area–try to figure out a way to make things work, make things better for Idahoans. Ask people what they want, and figure out a way to to get there effectively and efficiently.
That means a lot of listening, creative, solution-focused discussion, and flexibility and wisdom to continue making progress. All too often, pragmatic compromise loses to political or partisan posturing. I do not think that is what the founders intended, and certainly not what my constituents say they want. They want us to work to improve their lives and promote opportunity for them and their children.
ne. In a flexible and solution oriented manner for the common good.
Many of us are here in Idaho because of the land’s natural beauty and the recreation opportunities available to us. We feel a real responsibility to be stewards of this gift, and recognize that many of our friends depend on these natural resources for their livelihood.
I believe in public ownership of these lands. But I also believe in using them, but not “using them up”. Multiple use, including logging, mining and grazing as well as recreation and even conservation, all have roles in maintaining the public benefit from these lands.
I do not think that Idaho should “take over” federal public land. We do not have the ability to care for it, and would likely be required to sell off property. Once in private hands, access and a focus on the public good is diminished. That is not a future attractive to many Idahoans.