August 18, 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, granting women the right to vote. I have the pleasure of cosponsoring a resolution to educate Idahoans and others through the country about their heritage and commemorate the centennial of the passage of this important milestone. This resolution seeks to support and encourage Idahoans to explore and appreciate the Women’s Suffrage Movement.
Change in Employee Compensation
The Change in Employee Compensation committee met last week for the third time to discuss raises for state employees. After five hours of testimony and deliberation, the panel ultimately decided to adopt the Governor’s recommended 3% merit raise next year. According to state code, the legislature is required to move state employees’ compensation closer to market rates. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much headway on this in recent years. This year’s raise only barely covers increases in the cost of living (2.9%). The impact of this is that Idaho has become a training ground for people who quickly move on to the private sector, other roles with higher salaries, and other states, contributing to a high turnover rate and placing an undue burden on our important public organizations.
Thousands of Idahoans, including some of our military veterans, continue to wait for a healthcare plan that meets their needs. The Idaho Health Care Plan relies on two federal waivers to provide limited healthcare coverage to about 35,000 Idahoans. This is problematic for two reasons. First, the President has already stated that he is unlikely to grant one of the waivers. Since the plan requires both waivers to be granted, it will be unsuccessful. Second, the plan provides less coverage than Medicaid Expansion, to a smaller group of people, for a higher price tag. Idaho taxpayers have already paid into Medicaid expansion without receiving any benefit. This is fiscally irresponsible and does not provide access to affordable health coverage that Idahoans deserve.
Higher Education Study & CEO
The Governor’s Higher Education Task Force published several recommendations this past year to address the education and job-training needs beyond high school in the state of Idaho. One of these recommendations seeks to streamline “back-office” functions by centralizing operations for postsecondary institutions. The leadership and planning of this integration involves a study to examine the potential savings to the state. Since savings estimates have ranged anywhere from $2-81 million, this study is especially important to conduct before executing plans to consolidate. Additionally, while the state of Maine has been highly successful under consolidation, both Washington and Oregon have found it to be quite cumbersome. In some cases, procurement processes have taken up to three years to complete.
Governor Otter has taken this one step further, however, and has proposed the creation of “Higher Ed CEO” position. I consider this to be premature, given that we have yet to gain comprehensive understanding as to how well consolidation of back- room operations will (or will not) work. Before we act to appropriate funds toward a Higher Ed CEO, ultimately adding an additional layer of government oversight and administration, we will need to responsibly sift through the potential savings and make careful choices.
Town Hall Schedule
Our Town Halls are coming soon! Here’s a schedule of when and where we’ll be:
Ketchum - City Hall – 6pm
Bellevue – Oak Street Deli – 8am
Fairfield – Senior Center (tentative) – 10am
Gooding – Landr Inn – Noon
Hagerman – City Hall (tentative) – 2pm
Shoshone – Community Center – 4pm
As we get the locations firmed up, I will let you know. We hope to see you there.