Week 2 Education-H&W-Nullify


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.

About ddxdx

A Family physician, former county coroner and former Idaho State Senator
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6 Responses to Week 2 Education-H&W-Nullify

  1. Robert says:

    Keep up the good work by reporting on what you see. I like your positive attitude and most of what you said.


  2. Dan,
    The question I see in both threads (education and health care) is sustainability. Which implementations make Idaho sustainable in the near and longer term? I hope the Legislature will look at sustainability broadly, not just in terms of the next year’s budget.

    We are in uncertain economic times, where both our economic partners and the natural environment are in transition. I believe that we need to see sustainability in terms of global climate change, which may alter Idaho in many ways. Taking care of our population to preserve both human and social capital through this transition is important. Moves that increase resilience, that buffer us from unexpected change, that strengthen the health of our communities are important. Achieving this may require goring some sacred cows, but it should not be accomplished by exacting an unfair toll from the least advantaged among us, our young, old, or disabled. We need all Idahoans contributing to the success of our state.

  3. James Peek says:

    Thanx for the commentary. I don’t see anything in Luna’s proposal about raising class sizes and offering no means to improve state support that any sentient individual with any knowledge about the Idaho education system would agree with. Same for the health care issue: this amounts to cruelty to people as I see it. Some time our leadership will have to bite the bullet, exercise some leadership, and explain to folks that a tax raise is necessary. jimp

  4. Marty Godchaux says:

    Hi, Dan! Thank you very much for this beautifully written and very informative blog. We can almost feel that we are right there with you, or at least that we’ll have a better grasp of what our legislators actually do in Boise.
    I wish I had some sort of answer to the health care dilemma. The only thing I can think of, and at best it’s only tinkering around the edges, is to have some way of utilizing the time and energy of retirees in the role of peer educators or ‘buddies’ who might work under the direction of doctors to help in mitigating the expensive chronic diseases that seem to be on the rise nationally. For instance, a given peer educator might be paired up with a small group of diabetics to explain some of the basic science of the condition and to lead the group in mild exercising, or give a few lessons in healthy cooking. This isn’t dramatic or high-tech, but it might help to slow the progression of these types of diseases. What I don’t know is whether this would be helpful to doctors in practice, or “just one more thing” to do in an already over-busy day…
    On another subject, if you ever need input on something related to geology, either Bill or I would be happy to respond. We’ve worked a lot in southern Idaho, along the Snake River Plain-Yellowstone volcanic system, so we have a bit of knowledge about things like geothermal systems past and present, where big fault systems are, and any volcanic hazards (these are low-probability things, but there are at least some reasons for knowing about them for planning, zoning and land-use issues).
    Thanks again for the great job you are doing!
    Marty Godchaux

  5. Hi Dan. I agree. Good to listen. I agree that Idaho could do some amazing things with healthcare on the state level. We really do spend lots of money on health here, even though our funding for things like mental health is low compared to other states. This is a time when change is easier to stomach because we know it is coming regardless of our opinions. If we could make some major changes on a state level, perhaps a state funded health care program that did not involve private insurance companies, we could divert many problems to primary care physicians that now go to emergency rooms for inappropriate and expensive care. If our state had a good program to cover the uninsured by 2014, “nullification” would be a moot point. Let me know if there is any way I can help.

  6. Susan Roberts says:

    I can’t imagine how you can listen with a straight face to people who want to cut medicaid dollars and lose federal funds. Don’t the “cut funds” folks know anyone who needs medicaid or medicare? During WWII we had rationing and went without travels if there was no money for gas. Nobody wants a surtax, but if that’s the only way to dig ourselves out of this mess, so be it. Put it on the income tax, so it can be shared by those with income! Education and health care need to be our top priorities. Build schools and hire educators, not more prisons and prison staff. People who are educated can stay out of prison. People who are kept healthy can work and pay taxes — or retire and volunteer like mad. Let’s admit we are in a crisis and ask for something big from Idaho residents. The nickle and dime patches and nullification are just nitpicking instead of moving us forward. Thanks for being there and pushing the string.

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