I am honored to serve the residents of Nez Perce County 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.
Employment and good jobs is the real issue for Idahoans and Idaho’s economy. Since the recession began in 2007 Idaho has lost almost 70,000 jobs, and almost one in five Idahoans is unemployed or underemployed. Recovering those jobs – and saving the ones we have -- must to be our top priority. Idaho needs to begin to put Idahoans back to work.
Good jobs and business growth depends 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 a business plan for growth.
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.
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 another 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.
During the 2011 Legislative session, putting people back to work took the backseat to changes in K-12 education, ideologic statements on "sovereignty" and budget cutting. What would have been better is the start of wide ranging discussions focused on how the legislature can improve the jobs and economy in Idaho.
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 recover the lost jobs.
The information on the cost of U.S. healthcare is well known. We, as a society, pay 50-100% more than many of our international counterparts. This is a heavy burden on our competitiveness in the global market. The cost also makes it more difficult for low income families to afford insurance coverage. And as a result, while American healthcare may be great in an emergency and for some procedures, we have more than 40 million Americans without insurance coverage and receiving substandard care.
Idaho has more than 200,000 individuals without health coverage. We spend more than $50 million each year in financial assistance for indigent health costs, and tens of millions more is “cost shifted” to those with insurance. We also are low in the number of primary care givers, doctors and nurse practitioners, which adds to the burden of cost.
It is past time for us to do something to improve the cost and the quality of the care Idahoans receive. I have worked hard on healthcare projects including the Idaho Health Data Exchange, funding for Family Medicine residencies, reforming Medicaid to be more financially accountable, restructuring the Indigent Program, and expanding Mental Health and Substance abuse treatment to make us less dependent on prisons as the treatment for those individuals.
The Affordable Care Act adopted in 2010 offers an opportunity to expand coverage (which should lower the cost shift to those currently insured) but also to improve the cost of American healthcare. These changes will require a lot of State activity if they are to be done in the best manner for our citizens.I will continue to work to represent the best interests of Idaho patients, families and businesses as the transformation takes place over the ensuing years.
The cornerstone of Idaho’s communities is our schools. Besides producing quality workers and providing a path for better employment opportunities for families, education makes our communities attractive to those individuals and businesses looking to move.
Balancing the State budget on the backs of students hurts each community. A good education system is the key to improving the quality of life we enjoy and to attracting successful businesses to Idaho.
As a Legislator, I will continue to fight to make the education system in Idaho better. I will work with other Legislators to increase the funding our schools so desperately need while making sure that we get good value for our education spending. I will defend our teachers and our schools, and continue to focus on preparing our students for the world of the future.
Public policy can have a profound effect on our lives. And government can be a great force to make those lives better.
But the only way that happens, the only way democracy works, is if those in policy making positions work collaboratively for the common good. All too often pragmatic solutions are less prominent in the Legislature or the Congress that political or partisan posturing. I do not think that is what the founders intended.
I intend to continue to work for my constituents. With anyone. In a flexible and solution oriented manner for the common good.