BOISE, ID – On behalf of Idaho Democratic legislators, we thank the people of Idaho for placing your trust in us. It is our honor to serve We the People. We pledge to help businesses grow and to work to keep more money in the pockets’ of families and workers. We pledge to promote and defend freedom for all Idahoans.
We come to the 2015 session stronger as a group. Our true strength comes from the growing recognition among Idahoans that Idaho Democrats find ways for workers, families, communities and businesses to prosper together.
We’re stronger because Idaho has seen our ideas create opportunity for businesses and workers. Idaho wins when families, businesses and communities succeed together.
One example of this is Amy’s Kitchen, adding new jobs in Pocatello. The governor has noted that incentives helped bring that opportunity to Idaho workers. That incentive was brought to the Legislature several years ago by Idaho Democratic lawmakers Sen. Lacey and Rep. Pence. Together, we developed this program that creates “value added” jobs to our agricultural sector.
During 2014, Idaho Democrats all around the state knocked on tens of thousands of doors. We heard you.
Four issues came through loud and clear at your doors:
1. our economy and workers’ wages
2. real, sustained investments in education
3. maintaining our unique Idaho quality of life
4. accountability and honesty in government.
The legislature can do a few things right now to help Idaho workers increase their earnings and keep money in their pockets. We recognize that the pay for our own State employees is 19% below market—requiring many of our workers to depend on food stamps and other government programs. No full-time State employee should need welfare to support a family.
We recognize that many workers are not being paid enough to support their family’s needs. Idaho has a low-wage economy because of decades of neglect on the basics – education and infrastructure. Idaho Democrats support an increase in the minimum wage either through the legislature or, if the legislature won’t act on behalf of our working families, through a citizen’s initiative.
We also must do more to stimulate higher paying, small businesses that will produce 21st century jobs. Start-ups could benefit from new initiatives and full support for Small Business Development Centers. We support the Governor in his efforts in workforce training and the plan to develop better public and private support for technical and community college training.
Idaho values are served when all taxpayers are treated fairly. So if the Legislature chooses to press forward with the Governor’s special-interest tax cut, they should pay for that effort by eliminating special interest exemptions. They should not force workers, families, school children and communities to foot the bill.
We have also seen the Majority embrace a call for higher-paying jobs. This is a stark turnaround from a time just two years ago when the governor bragged about Idaho’s low wages. Idaho workers are some of the best in the nation. But they need leaders who believe in them. And they deserve to be paid a fair wage for a day’s work. Idaho Democrats will continue to advocate for Idaho workers.
Clearly we need a better way forward—and the Governor and our GOP leaders are beginning to understand that. Gov. Otter’s “Choose Idaho” program is an acknowledgment that the failed GOP policies of the past 20 years have driven bright young people away. Idahoans deserve opportunities to prosper and succeed right here at home. The same policies that have created our low-wage, low-skill economy will not act as a clarion call to “Choose Idaho.” Not when all they can expect are low-wage jobs that won’t adequately support their families. We need a new direction. We call on the Governor and our GOP colleagues to change course and do the hard work that’s needed to turn Idaho’s economy around.
We’re pleased that the Governor outlined many priorities in his address that Idaho Democrats have championed for years. We thank him for beginning to understand that a strong investment in our education system will grow Idaho’s economy. We welcome this greater understanding.
Idaho’s children need school, and our Constitution mandates the Legislature provide it. Crowded classrooms and 4-day school weeks are not indications of great education investment.
Idaho families recognize that the legislature and the Governor must stop starving schools. A return to 2009 funding, the same funding that today’s high school seniors saw when they were in 6th grade, cannot reverse the damage that has been done to a generation of students. Idaho deserves better.
We would like to take a moment to thank Idaho educators. You have done much with limited resources.
We need to keep focusing on keeping good educators serving our kids. School districts all over the state have trouble hiring qualified teachers. We’ve seen an 85% drop in the number of teachers from other states choosing Idaho—and no wonder. In recent Idaho history, the teaching profession has been under constant attack. Certainly, students should not be put in the middle of an argument between “accountability” and adequate investment.
We must work together with a focus on kids. If early education helps, do it. If mentoring is important, do it. If we need more guidance counselors, find them. And if our funding formula is outdated and unfair, if it doesn’t allow us to fulfill our constitutional duty, for heaven’s sake, let’s fix it.
We heard repeatedly of the great concerns Idahoans have about how our state government operates. Honesty and fairness are important to Idahoans. They are unhappy with the way that state government has dealt with the private prison fraud, the Idaho Education Network, and other cases.
1) We need to revise how contracts are developed, vetted and monitored.
2) When there is malfeasance, there needs to be an investigation and correction, and prosecution if criminal offenses occur.
3) Finally, we need to review our contracts to ensure that our citizens get what they paid for!
Idaho taxpayers deserve a purchasing and contracting system that is accountable, transparent and effective.
We also look forward to joining our fellow legislators to support financial disclosure, a prohibition of lobbying the executive branch during contract development, and closing the revolving door where state employees can retire one day and lobby former co-workers the next.
We also believe that Idaho is stronger and that our future is brighter when we fight for freedom.
If you are forced to leave Idaho for a decent wage, you are not free. If wealthy corporations have a greater voice in our government than you do, you are not free. If our schools fail to prepare our children for a global economy, they are not free. If we lose our clean water and air, or the land for hiking, hunting and fishing, we are not free.
We are not free if it is legal to fire a worker or deny someone housing simply because of their sexual orientation. We are not free if we let the government interfere with decisions that are private.
Freedom means fairness for all.
Idaho Democrats have been pushing for better education investment, job development, workforce training and help for Idahoans’ “household economy” for years. We have tried to be stewards of Idaho’s great natural resources. We have tried to help Idaho drive more often with headlights, and less using the rear view mirror. We appreciate the Governor beginning to see the wisdom in our approach.
We commit to all of Idaho that Idaho Democrats will continue to bring ideas that benefit Idaho workers and families. Working families in Idaho, Idaho Democrats are here for you. In everything we do we will have your interests at heart.
God bless America. And God bless the great state of Idaho.