January 26, 2019
"As a leader, you have to have the ability to assimilate new information and understand that there might be a different view"- Madeleine Albright
Neat Findings in the Public Policy Survey
For the fourth year in a row, Boise State University's School of Public Service has performed a Public Policy Survey for the State of Idaho. The general takeaway is that Idaho is moving in the right direction - overall 59.5% of respondents are feeling good about it. Currently, the top 10 issues facing Idaho in order of importance are education, the economy, healthcare, growth, transportation, the environment, taxes, immigration, affordable housing, and crime.
Respondents were asked about K-12 public schools, early childhood learning, and student preparedness. Idahoans are in favor of early childhood education, with 60.7% supporting it. Even when asked if they would be willing to raise taxes, 54.2% of respondents are still supportive. When asked about giving local school districts the opportunity to fund programs which target reading proficiency, more than three-quarters of respondents agreed. Soberingly, 60.7% polled less than positive views about how schools are preparing students for education beyond high school.
In order to provide additional revenue streams for local governments, 62% favor giving every city in Idaho the ability to vote on a local option tax. Considering energy and the environment, 68% of Idahoans are in favor of the state transitioning to renewable energy by 2050. 55% are in favor of transitioning to renewable energy by 2050 even if it means an increase in power bills. Another topic in the survey that the Legislature will be discussing this year is criminal justice. 71% of Idahoans believe judges should be given minimum and maximum limits on sentencing. 86% of people believe that criminals can change their behavior through rehabilitation efforts. Overall, I am pleased to see most Idahoans feel the state is moving in the right direction, but they agree there is additional work to be done like addressing healthcare.
With 61% of the vote, Idaho passed Proposition 2 with higher support levels than any other state in history for a Medicaid ballot initiative. Recently, Close the Gap gave a presentation about implementing the new Medicaid Expansion law and some of the statistics were eye-opening. In 2022, there will be a net savings of $37.7 million at the county and state levels. The economic benefits are even more. In 2020, there will be $20.7 million boost in state and local tax revenue, 5,000 new jobs will be created, and by 2030, there will be a cumulative boost of $8.4 billion. The report also highlighted that rural hospitals are six times more likely to close their doors in states that have not expanded Medicaid and currently 19 out of 27 Idaho critical access rural hospitals are operating at negative margins, putting them at risk. The Legislature must take responsibility to fund and implement this expansion so individuals can gain coverage starting January 1, 2020 and Idahoans can begin to see the positive economic benefits.
For FY2020, Governor Brad Little requested a 17% increase in Medicaid spending from the General Fund and $10.7 million pulled from the Millennium Fund for Medicaid Expansion. The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee is currently deliberating this proposal.
Funding Public Education
Many in the education community feel the way Idaho funds public schools is overly complex, confusing, and does not direct funding to the students or schools that need it most. Currently, schools are funded based on average daily attendance. The new funding formula would be based on overall enrollment. The goal of the new formula is to help all students, regardless of where they attend school, to reach their educational potential. The formula starts by providing a base amount of funding per student. Every public-school student would be funded at least to this level by the state. Then additional funding would be provided based on student, school, and district needs. It is recommended that any new formula will not begin until the 2020-2021 school year, providing a comprehensive formula is agreed upon by the legislature this session.
Town Hall Schedule
Friday, February 22, 2019:
Ketchum City Hall, 6:00pm
Saturday, February 23, 2019:
Hailey, Croy Street Exchange (16 West Croy Street), 8:00am
Shoshone Community Center, 10:30am
Gooding, Zeppe's Restaurant, 12:30pm
Hagerman City Hall, 3:30pm