We hear more about the Superintendant’s and the Governor’s plan for reforming education in Idaho. The details fill in for where the money comes from and goes, what teachers will face in contracts and in the classroom, what students will find when the bell rings. I am listening. There is public testimony right now before JFAC about the proposal. There are lots of people in the halls. I watch on the computer.
I cannot find much to support in the details other than the concept of changing direction. Old saying: “If you are going in the wrong direction, each step forward is a mistake.” Education needs our support and energy. I wish the superintendant had collaborated with the stakeholders. I am still studying details. I do not serve on JFAC or Education so I need to pay attention. I appreciate all the emails and comments I have gotten.
Senate Health and Welfare Committee hearings have dealt with rules but also background. We met twice with House H&W, Senate H&W and JFAC (30+ legislators) and just yesterday with House and Senate H&W. These joint meetings were to provide budget information and organizational background. The Governor recommends trimming about 25 million General Fund dollars from Medicaid. We will lose the $58 million in federal funds that match this so that means about $84 million less in benefits for Idahoans. How to best do this, that is, make the best decisions for our state will occupy our efforts in the next months. As I watch the public testimony at JFAC I am struck how unlike a kitchen table discussion it is. Our Governor said we should solve our problems like a family around a kitchen table. If I had a kitchen table between me and the people testifying before Health and Welfare and JFAC next week, I would ask them if they thought we should raise taxes to support the programs they do not want cut. And who should pay to preserve this program. And if we do not raise taxes, which other part of the state should be funded less to preserve the program they are defending.
We have a Health and Welfare budget on both the State and National level that is unsustainable. Governor Otter’s address referred to the trap of entitlements, and to a certain extent, I can understand this. Maybe it is the principle of giving some one fish vs. teaching them to fish. But honestly, the programs that are facing cuts were instituted years ago as a way to save money. Idaho offers these programs for adults with physical of intellectual disabilities in an attempt to keep them out of institutions. So are we shooting ourselves in the foot here?
We will take testimony next week from the public. I have heard from many already. I would be glad to hear from you. I wish it was a kitchen table but it might be email.
Early this week I saw a lot of Republican Senators carrying around the book Nullification by Tom Woods. I had a constituent send it to me a few weeks ago, thus I recognized the cover. I understand people upset about national health care reform. Change is difficult. But, like education, health care needs to change in our country. Health care costs grow at a pace greater than the rest of the economy and quality is not what it should be. So let’s get to work on the solutions. Do those who want to refudiate the health care bill have suggestions to solve the mess? I would love to hear them. Idaho has a great opportunity here to do some creative things both in the public arena with Medicaid and in the private sector. (In another post I will outline my suggestions.) If we could make Idaho a shining light of high quality, low cost health care business might see this as a healthy place to set up shop. That is where I want to direct my energy.
I see the passion of those who find federal health care reform as an intrusion on their rights. Governor Otter even mentioned nullification in his State of the State speech. And a House freshman has introduced a bill that calls for Idaho to “Nullify” the federal legislation. The last serious attempts at nullification were George Wallace and segregation. I hope Idaho does not chose such a battle.