Some thoughts on health care, personal property tax and education reform

November 2, 2012

Ask anyone who has offered up their name on a ballot. A campaign for office can be a daunting task. But as involved as competing for an elected position can be, the real works begins after the November 6th dust has settled.

Health Care: How or if we move forward with the mandates of Obama Care will be largely dependent on whether the plans namesake is still President. If Obama is re-elected we will need to get serious about dealing with the challenge of building a state based insurance exchange or continue to take the default position of doing nothing and having the federal government run one for us. I have advocated for the state based model in the past and will continue to do so in this scenario.

If I get my way and we elect Romney, Obama Care is likely to be repealed but that doesn’t mean the problem is solved. We have some serious challenges with health care delivery in this country and it will be imperative that we find solutions.

Going from 1.2 to 2.3 billion dollars the Department of Health and Welfare budget is up 95% in the past ten years. It has grown faster than any state budget and its appetite for dollars leaves other important needs financially compromised.

Solutions being looked at include managed care for Medicaid. In simple terms managed care allows providers to bid on providing services to an identified group of clients for a predetermined price. The intent is to maximize the amount of care per dollar spent and has shown cost effective promise in states that are trying it.

Another idea is known as a global waiver. This allows for Medicaid program flexibility by removing many of the mandates states must follow to be eligible for federal Medicaid dollars. This would allow Idaho to design a plan tailored to fit us rather than being forced to administer a federal plan out of phase with our needs. Cost saving as well as better service for clients is just a few of the potential benefits.

Personal Property Tax: I am a firm believer that a favorable business climate strengthens our economy, broadens and increases the tax base, and benefits us all. That said I am opposed to a complete, immediate repeal of the personal property tax due to the unmanageable financial challenges it would pose for many taxing districts.

There has been much discussion on repeal legislation that might be acceptable to most taxing districts which include; partial repeal, replacement money from the state, or a phase out over time approach. Many feel there are enough votes to move this issue forward so it will be important for representatives of taxing districts to suggest options and voice opinions. I believe the solution lies somewhere in the middle and I will advocate for a reasonable outcome that promotes economic development and protects local taxing districts.

Education Reform: Certainly this is the most hotly debated topic on the ballot in Idaho. There are three possible outcomes. All propositions could be upheld, all could be overturned, or we could have a split decision. I see this issue somewhat like Obama Care in the sense that regardless of the outcome there will be much work to do.

I will advocate for unfreezing the two frozen years on the state salary schedule. I am a firm believer in opportunities for high school students taking college classes, acclimating to online learning, and top teachers being recognized financially. I also am committed to making sure the doors of technology opportunity are wide open to our children. We must make sure they can compete on the work stage of the world. In short, if the laws are overturned we can’t afford to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

My hope is that we spend our efforts post election on moving issues important to Idaho forward in a positive manner and not waste our focus on who won or lost. Living here in the Gem State we have much to be thankful for and much to be optimistic about. I have appreciated your support in the past and would consider it an honor to continue to represent you.

Idaho State Journal 11/2/2012