By Idaho House and Senate Democrats
Special to the Reader
Republican politicians have had supermajority control of the Legislature and every statewide office for decades. Under their governance, Idaho has sunk to 51st place in education investment (and, remarkably, now they want to cut another $99 million from our education budget). For seven years they refused to even allow a vote on Medicaid expansion, leaving many thousands of Idahoans to suffer and sometimes die without health care. They have eroded public lands access and allowed air and water quality to dramatically decline. They have stonewalled measures to reduce homeowner property taxes and left our infrastructure to dangerously deteriorate.
Faced with this record, it’s not surprising that they prefer name-calling and misdirection to a real conversation about issues. Tom Luna, the new Idaho GOP chairman, recently previewed his plan for attacking Democratic candidates this election year:
Step One: Harp nonstop on a report generated for the city of Boise by a nonpartisan team of volunteers, and falsely attribute it to Idaho Democrats, who in fact never wrote, endorsed or implemented it. The report compiled some citizens’ suggestions, and is not and never has been Democratic policy or platform.
Step Two: Call Democratic legislators “socialists,” ignoring the fact that we are not only capitalists who embrace the importance of businesses large and small, but many of us are business owners ourselves.
Step Three: Hope that voters will settle for name-calling and distortion, and won’t probe into actual positions or records.
This brazen misdirection by the GOP chairman belies a fear that if Idaho voters really understand Democrats’ positions and the GOP’s dismal single-party governance record, the Republican supermajority would be in jeopardy.
Voters deserve to know where Democrats actually stand. Here is our legislative agenda, plain and simple:
A Strong Economy
Idaho has lost business opportunities due to inadequate infrastructure, an insufficiently skilled workforce and a lack of affordable housing. We want to correct these deficiencies. Let’s be honest — there’s a lot of crony capitalism in this state masquerading as real capitalism. We’ll do a lot better without a one-party government whose focus is on well-connected insiders rather than making sure everyone has economic opportunity.
The success of our communities starts with our schools. Teacher pay must be sufficient to recruit and retain quality educators. Lack of funding shouldn’t force schools into four-day weeks and sub-par education programs. Education should be adequately funded by the state as mandated by the Idaho Constitution — property taxpayers shouldn’t have to pass levies to keep schools operational. We should be generating a skilled workforce that draws high-wage employers to Idaho, not underfunding higher education and forcing tuition hikes that make a degree unaffordable.
We oppose the GOP’s giant tax cuts and exemptions to those at the top that leave the rest of us with overblown property taxes and underfunded schools and infrastructure. The 2018 Republican income tax cut cost the state more than $200 million annually in revenue, gave more than $5,000 a year in cuts to the wealthiest, but only $12 a year to earners in the bottom 20%, while leaving schools underfunded and giving nothing to those needing it most.
The indexed homeowner exemption should be restored and we must increase property tax assistance for seniors and veterans. Millions of dollars a year in internet sales taxes are currently held hostage by the majority party’s infighting. These funds should be used to fund education, repair infrastructure and reduce property taxes. And the Legislature should examine the $2.5 billion a year in lost revenue from sales tax exemptions.
Democrats always fight to protect public lands and your right to access and use them, as well as your right to enjoy clean air and clean water.
Idahoans should not have to work three jobs to support a family. We support gradual increases to the minimum wage and affordable, safe child care.
We support our first responders. We back adequate funding for training and equipment, including ensuring proper standards for use of force.
Idaho has 187 structurally deficient bridges and 898 bridges that are past their expected structural life. You deserve roads and bridges that are strong enough for the needs of business and your family’s safety.
We support affordable, quality health care, so we and 61% of Idahoans who agreed with us made Medicaid expansion a reality.
Idaho Democrats are fighting for a more balanced Legislature that addresses constituents’ needs. After thousands of conversations with voters, we have found broad public support for our platform as described above, and the GOP is rightly concerned that a debate on real issues will not play out to their advantage.
In 90 days, you’ll have the chance to correct the harmful imbalance in our Legislature. We hope that you’ll join us in paving a better road for Idaho’s future.
This opinion piece was drafted and submitted by the Idaho Democratic Caucus, representing the combined 21 Democrats serving in the Idaho House and Senate.
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