Idahoans have endured a lot over the last year. On both an economic and personal level, we have collectively been through more hardships in 2020 than in any other year in recent memory. In spite of these many adversities, I have seen great courage and resilience among Idaho’s people. It has been my great honor to serve as a leader in this state and to witness the determination of the individuals who call our state home.
I believe that Idahoans have suffered enough. There are many ways in which the state of Idaho could take action to ameliorate the unfortunate conditions that have been forced upon us as a result of the coronavirus and—to a much greater degree—as a result of government lockdowns and ongoing restrictions of businesses and individuals.
One important solution involves expanding our state’s healthcare capacity, something we hear is in increasingly short supply. First, though, we need some clarity regarding what specifically is lacking. Do we need more space and more beds or more doctors and nurses? Are we using the most state of the art equipment for personal protection and for facility sanitization? Once we understand the specific needs, we can work on fulfilling them.
For example, if it is primarily a personnel issue, perhaps we could bring in retired nurses to handle non-COVID injuries or expedite the training and certification of trainees who are in school right now. We could increase pay for our existing nurses who are suffering burnout or bring in healthcare workers from other areas. We could hire more instructors to train additional Certified Nursing Assistants and Certified Medical Assistants.
Instead of using fear about capacity as an excuse for more mandates, we should identify where we have shortages and work to remedy them.
The state could also take direct action to help individuals and businesses who have suffered financial hardships as a result of government lockdowns, social distancing orders, capacity limitations, and other policies. Idaho has received almost $2 billion in federal CARES Act money, and we have wide latitude to use this money to alleviate the harm that has been suffered by Idahoans.
Some of that money could be used to provide income tax credits to working families who have been forced to spend additional money to pay for childcare due to school closures.
There are a number of other options as well. Instead of localities threatening to pull business licenses, they could offer the elimination of business license fees for one year in order to incentivize a desired outcome. We could suspend business payroll taxes, income taxes, or even property taxes for a year. In addition to the CARES Act money, Idaho is positioned to have a General Fund budget surplus of over $500m in the current fiscal year. Surely, the legislature could find some room to help offer much needed relief to Idaho citizens. We should direct this money to the people and businesses who have been harmed by injurious government policies. These policies have inflicted significant financial, physical, and emotional harm on Idahoans across the state. Over the last few weeks, we have seen more mandates being proposed or imposed on Idahoans by elected and appointed officials at various levels of government. These policies are multiplying the harm many times over. We don’t need excessive government interventions. We need to trust each other to do what is best to protect ourselves and our loved ones. We need to use our God-given gifts to help each other through these times.
I know that many Idahoans are chafing under the heavy hand of government right now. I feel it too. We rightly resent unjustified infringements on our fundamental freedoms and the unwarranted suspension of our natural rights. I am optimistic that the state legislature will take steps to right some of these wrongs when they convene in January. Until such corrections are made, I encourage you all to continue standing up for your beliefs and defending your rights.
The more we learn, the less we have to fear. As a member of CFAC, your Lieutenant Governor, and a former legislator, I am committed to working with stakeholders and finding effective solutions that do not infringe on your rights. Have courage. Main Street Idaho needs your support right now. Your community needs your help. We all have talents and gifts that we can share as we work to rebuild our economy and restore our state.