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A Message from the Chair:
Laureen Necochea

August, 26, 2022

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Higher education is an important pathway to careers that offer family-sustaining wages, but the math that students face has changed a lot over time. 

 

When my dad went to Boise State (then, Boise Junior College), he was able to easily cover his tuition and fees with income from his summer jobs. Over the decades since, state investment did not keep up and costs shifted to students who were forced to take out big loans. This has been especially true for students of color. Today’s graduates are now juggling the cost of raising families, increasingly expensive housing, and other basic expenses. For many people in crucial but undervalued professions, such as teachers and social workers, crushing student debt payments put a terrible strain on the family budget.

 

On Wednesday, the Biden-Harris administration announced their plan to bring targeted student loan relief to working and middle-class families. In Idaho, there are 218,100 student borrowers with an average loan debt of over $33,000. These actions will help borrowers who need it the most – with nearly 90% of relief dollars going to borrowers earning less than $75,000 per year. Buying a home, choosing to start a family, or saving for retirement will be made easier for so many Idaho families. 

 

In the words of former President Barack Obama this is a BFD. 

 

We also saw big news from Gov. Little calling for a special legislative session to spend some of the dollars that came in over projections. Now I don’t have a crystal ball, but boy did I predict this so-called “surplus.” In January, Representative Sally Toone, Senator Mark Nye and I wrote about the Idaho GOP adopting lowball revenue estimates (in conflict with expert projections) to engineer future budget “surpluses.” They did this while basic responsibilities – like adequate state funding for schools – went unmet.

 

For years Idaho Democrats have tirelessly fought for increased investments in Idaho schools while the GOP supermajority underpaid our educators, slashed funding for higher education, let our schools fall into disrepair, and rejected an $18 million grant to support preschool. So why, with nearly $1.4 billion in state coffers, is Little calling for a special session to finally fund education? 

 

His back is against a wall. 

 

This November, Reclaim Idaho’s Quality Education Act will be on the ballot. It calls for similar increases in education funding and, like Medicaid Expansion, it’s extremely popular. 

 

The major difference between these two proposals is how they are funded. The Quality Education Act would require the wealthiest Idahoans and corporations to pay the fair share, returning to the income tax rates they paid 20 years ago. The governor’s proposal relies on sales tax – a regressive tax that requires those of modest means to pay a higher percentage of their income. The governor’s plan is also tied to permanent revenue cuts disproportionately benefitting people at the top of the income spectrum and lopsided tax rebates where working class folks get a minimum check and the people who need it the least get the biggest checks.

 

I think if most Idahaons had a say they'd choose the former over the latter. Unfortunately, Governor Little isn’t giving us the choice. He’s deliberately doing an end run around the citizens’ initiative by pushing legislation with an effective date designed to undo the Quality Education Act if it passes. 

 

Let me be clear: I'm very eager to increase school funding. It’s sad that the price of doing so is another Republican tax package that shortchanges working families. This revenue should be used to provide meaningful benefits to Idahoans who work hard, but face soaring rents, home prices and other financial challenges.

 

President Biden has proven that we can create tax policies and programs that lift up working people and families, but only with the right people in office.

Trust Idahoans to govern themselves
By Terri Pickens ManweilerCandidate for Lieutenant Governor

August, 20, 2022

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Back-to-school time is expensive and it’s a huge time commitment–but I love it.

Okay, I don’t love how my kids keep changing sizes so I have to keep buying clothes. I don’t love that they need enough school supplies to equip an army. I don’t love the endless driving: for shopping trips, for sports physicals, for random errands.

And my heart breaks a little each year that I watch my “little ones” take bigger and bigger steps out in the world.

But I love that we have schools to go back to!

You know who doesn’t love back-to-school time? My opponent, Speaker Scott Bedke, and anti-freedom extremists who he has rolled over for, like the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF).

Speaker Bedke supports “school choice.” That sounds nice, right? It’s not nice. It is double-talk from the far-right about its campaign to put public money into private schools. That’s a very bad idea.

IFF loves the idea of starving public schools, particularly rural ones. That’s a big reason why I refused to legitimize that radical organization when they wanted to host a debate. IFF is so radical that abolishing public schools is their top issue.

What’s not to love about public school?

Well, look at what happens in a school with professional teachers who challenge kids. The kids learn to live and work together. They learn that science is real and that it is the basis of medicine, solving modern problems, and exploring the stars. If they are lucky, kids share classes with kids who aren’t like them. They learn to love the differences, not fear them. They learn to respect other perspectives, not ignore them.

Public school kids learn the skills it takes to make democracy work.

It grieves me to say it, but that respect for diversity that kids might learn in public schools scares people like Speaker Bedke. It fuels his disdain for teachers and students.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation? They attack public schools to weaken our democracy.


Hey, but we still have back-to-school time. We are still strong people who can unite. We have power and we matter.

A vote for me is a vote for someone who will fight for your right to send a kid back to school every year–until they are old enough to vote.

Health care is more than just the cost of insulin
By David Roth, Candidate for U.S. Senate

August, 19, 2022

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There has been a lot of attention in the last few weeks about the cost of insulin. Unfortunately, both of our U.S. senators voted against capping the monthly cost of insulin for the majority of Americans. And while insulin is absolutely critical for the 9 million or so insulin-dependent diabetics in this country, it is not the only medication out there hitting Americans in the pocketbook.

According to NiceRX.com, the average per capita cost for pharmaceuticals in the United States is $1,228.66 per year, just over 37% higher than the next highest country, Switzerland. Many of these medications are for chronic illnesses such as diabetes. About 30% of diabetics are insulin dependent. The rest of us, like me, who has Type 2 diabetes, manage our diabetes quite well with other medications. Imagine my shock this past month when I went to refill my prescription. What had previously been a $74 co-pay, after insurance and manufacturer discount card, was now about $324. It worked out to be a 337% increase. The only explanation given? The drug is now simply more expensive due to demand.

While we all understand that prices do tend to increase, one has to wonder what is driving this increase. Especially since it seems to be felt most here in the United States — more than anywhere else in the world. What have they figured out that we have not?

This seems particularly egregious considering a recent article in the Washington Post reporting that AbbVie, the maker of the best-selling drug in the world, Humira, generates 75% of its sales in the United States. Thanks to the Trump tax law changes, though, AbbVie can shield 99% of that income from U.S. taxes. 99%!

To be clear: these companies are charging Americans more than they charge anyone else and at the same time ducking out on their responsibility to pay U.S. taxes on those ill-gotten gains. Based on current votes, and statement releases by our Republican leaders, they are not only proud of this fact, but would seek to expand it. They also appear to oppose any measure designed to hold Big Pharma accountable.

Where does that leave the average American? It leaves about 35 million of us, myself included, completely dependent on our Affordable Care Act insurance and the protections guaranteed to us against discrimination due to a pre-existing chronic condition. Without that lifeline, there would be no way that I could afford to insure myself and get the medications that I need to remain healthy and support my family.

We need to focus on increasing access to affordable health care, especially among vulnerable populations. That is one reason I am proud to be a Democrat. We are looking for solutions to real problems, while the other side is simply fixated on sunsetting programs such as the ACA, Medicare and Social Security — with no real plan to replace them.

A Message from the Chair:
Laureen Necochea

August, 19, 2022

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This week President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law – one of the most significant pieces of legislation in recent history. The Act will lower costs for American families from health care expenses, to prescription drugs, and energy bills. It also takes huge steps to tackle the climate crisis while creating good-paying jobs and reducing the national deficit. It’s a win for Democrats and, more importantly, the American people. 

 

But passing the Inflation Reduction Act was not without challenges. Every single Republican, including Idaho’s Mike Simpson, Russ Fulcher, Jim Risch, and Mike Crapo voted against these measures. Even worse? Risch and Crapo helped defeat a provision in the Inflation Reduction Act to cap the monthly out-of-pocket costs for people who use insulin at $35. 

 

In this historic moment, Democrats sided with the American people and Idaho’s Republican congressmen sided with special interests. And I’m not the least bit surprised, because time and time again we’ve seen these same dynamics play out at the Statehouse.

 

During the 2022 Legislation Session, our strong revenues meant we could finally deliver broadly shared priorities that have been on the back burner for too long: reducing property taxes, repealing the sales tax on groceries and strengthening our schools. What did the Republican supermajority do? They once again doubled-down on their trickle-down approach, at the urging of high-powered interests, and closed the door on important tax solutions that everyday Idahoans want and desperately need. 

 

The Idaho GOP wants us to think government can’t work for working families. The truth? They make it so. They’ve rigged Idaho’s economy in favor of high-powered interests by heaping tax breaks upon those who need them least for decades. They’ve underfunded education, forced property taxes to skyrocket, and left our roads and bridges in utter disrepair. 

 

Idahoans are wising up. 

 

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act proves that the government can work for working families when Democrats have power. Idaho Democrats are fighting the same good fight right here at home. We successfully pass bills that help Idahoans, but we are limited by our small numbers. We bring many strong proposals that Republican leadership refuses to hear, but we also cast the deciding votes on many key bills that a majority of Republican representatives vote against, such as investments in affordable housing and child care.

 

We can do more, such as restoring balance to our property tax system, build a thriving middle class, and ensure all Idaho children have access to a world-class education, but only if we elect more Democrats.

 

So let’s help Idaho Democrats get elected up and down the ballot this November.

Trust Idahoans to govern themselves
By Bob Solomon, Candidate for District 10 Senate

August, 14, 2022

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In the representative democracy our founders crafted, a fundamental principle is that elected officials are chosen by the people to do the work of the people. The role of the legislator is to listen, understand, and respond to the needs of their district.

The representative lives in the district, with the underlying understanding that you cannot represent people if you are not among them. Today, representative democracy faces an existential threat from Dark Money interest groups. These groups, so called “non-profits” who in fact are spending for candidates and causes, are not required to disclose their donors. This becomes dangerous when we cannot see who is funding these groups and assess their true motives and goals.In Idaho, the foremost example of this is the Idaho Freedom Foundation, its political action committee and interconnected affiliates.

These claim that they want the will of the people to be enacted in Idaho, yet prevent it at every turn. How? By flooding Idahoans with a slew of misinformation, half-facts, and fear-mongering. The IFF playbook is to take an out-of-state issue and work very hard to convince the people of Idaho that this is happening here. Without defining terms and claiming (often speciously) local examples, they make sweeping claims about hot-button national issues and raise fear that it is happening in Idaho.

The result is that we cannot have a conversation about the daily stresses that are impacting Idahoans: managing growth, addressing affordability, rising property taxes, and ensuring quality education for our children. Those conversations are systematically overshadowed by the IFF, and then de-prioritized by the legislators who are funded by them. This sucks the air out of the room for the rest of us as a small extremist group of legislators take up all the oxygen, though most of us know that we can work together on the issues we all face. Idaho is seeing unprecedented growth, which must be managed properly.

Homeowners are facing the highest property tax burden in the history of this state. Renters are getting priced out of their living spaces. Seniors are choosing between property tax or food/medicine. This great state has some challenges that need reasonable, thoughtful legislators to address. The insanity of spending time defunding the courts, robbing the people of their right to vote on initiatives, and spending time on fabricated grievance issues means the real problems go unsolved. The best solution to this is to elect representatives who listen to the concerns of their constituents and prioritize addressing these problems when they are in office. If you are concerned with the current state of these issues in Idaho, I encourage you to take a look at who is funding the candidates in your district.

Ask yourself what their priorities are and compare them with yours. Representative democracy allows for Idahoans to have the most say here right here in the communities they are building. Let’s resist the pretensions of shadowy out of state power brokers. Trust Idahoans to govern themselves.

A Message from the Chair:
Laureen Necochea

August, 12, 2022

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During my short time as chair of the Idaho Democratic Party, I’ve had a chance to visit communities across Idaho and talk with hundreds of Idahoans. Here’s what I’ve learned: Idaho is at a crossroads. 

 

Far-right extremism poses an ever growing threat to our state and our way of life. Idaho is no stranger to organized hate. Growing up, I heard the news stories and felt the impact of the Hayden Lake Aryan Nations compound. And I watched as everyday Idahoans, regardless of their political affiliation, stood up and successfully fought back against white nationalism. 

 

Recent coverage by the Idaho Capital Sun and Idaho Statesman examine the resurgence of extremism. Democrats have been sounding the alarm about this disturbing trend for years.

 

But I don’t see that same action across the aisle. In fact, I see the opposite. Far-right extremists have found a home in the Idaho Republican Party. They serve as chairs in their county parties, they win nominations in Republican primaries, and play cruel pranks on families experiencing homelessness as we saw in Twin Falls. And now, with the election of Dorothy Moon, extremists have successfully seized control of the Idaho GOP. 

 

And what have  supposedly “moderate” Republican leaders, like Brad Little, Scott Bedke, and Mike Simpson, had to say about this?

 

NOTHING. 


They may quietly whisper their concerns, but when extreme laws come to their desks, they approve them. They refuse to stand up to the radicalism in their party and their complicity is costing us freedoms we hold dear. 

 

Just this week, Gov. Little attempted to score cheap political points by attacking efforts by the Biden administration to protect transgender children from discrimination. At the federal level, Idaho’s Republican delegation voted against bringing high-paying jobs to Idaho and providing health care to toxin-exposed veterans. Rather than using their platform to look out for Idahoans, they have attacked the FBI for lawfully investigating criminal allegations of a disgraced president.

 

Idaho deserves better. 

 

It’s time to channel our inner Beto O'Rourke. We’re calling things how we see them, taking the gloves off, and doing our level best to hold these people accountable.

 

Across Idaho, voters are waking up. They are seeing Republican leaders fall to extremism and vote against our interests. We need to capitalize on this. We need to be ready with the ads, billboards, campaign staff, and trained volunteers in communities across our state. 

 

We have a moral imperative to fight back with everything we’ve got. Join me. 

Kansas showed us what’s possible
By Chair Laureen Necochea

August, 5, 2022

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This week, a deep red state showed us what is possible. Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected an amendment to their state constitution to remove protections for abortion. They knew that without this constitutional guarantee, GOP politicians — like those here in Idaho — would not hesitate to introduce extreme abortion bans with virtually no exceptions for rape, incest, or even the life of the patient. 

 

I know Idahoans trust people to make decisions about their own lives and bodies, without government interference, and a newly released analysis by The New York Times backs this up. They estimate a majority of Idaho voters would have supported abortion rights in a ballot initiative similar to the one in Kansas. 

 

So what does this mean for our state? 

 

It’s further proof that today’s Idaho GOP is way too extreme for Idaho. From their ultra-MAGA plan to dismantle our public schools to their cruel anti-abortion platform with no exception for saving a mother’s life, Idaho’s Republican supermajority no longer represents a majority of Idahoans. 

 

Idahoans are with us on the issues. They believe Idaho students deserve a quality education, that our economy should work for all of us, not just the wealthy few, and democracy is worth defending. 

 

But beliefs don’t win elections, actions do.

 

The inspiring result in Kansas didn’t happen on its own. It happened because people came together to organize across the state, talk to voters, donate funds and deliver well-honed messages. It is the same work that Idaho Democrats are undertaking right now so that we can win elections this November.

 

We can’t do this work alone and I invite you to join us today.

Kansas showed what’s possible. It’s up to all of us to roll up our sleeves for Idaho.

Idaho Dems on New DOJ Lawsuit Against Idaho
By Chair Laureen Necochea

August, 2, 2022

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Idaho Democratic Party Chair Lauren Necochea released the following statement in support of the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice seeking to block Idaho’s new restrictive abortion law:

“Idaho’s radical abortion ban gives health care providers an impossible choice: withhold medically necessary care or face prison time. In states where these bans have gone into effect, providers are waiting for medical conditions to worsen before assisting their pregnant patients, increasing the risk of sepsis and other life-threatening complications. This is immoral.

The extreme abortion ban, passed by the GOP-controlled legislature and signed by Gov. Little, endangers the lives of pregnant Idahoans and undermines the duty hospitals have to treat and stabilize sick patients.

Idaho’s Republican politicians would rather let a pregnancy kill a person than allow them to receive an abortion. From the Idaho Statehouse to the office of the U.S. Department of Justice, Democrats are fighting for access to reproductive health care.”

Idaho Republicans Risk State’s Manufacturing Jobs to Play Politics
By Chair Laureen Necochea

July, 28, 2022

Idaho Republicans voted against a bill to make U.S semiconductor manufacturers competitive globally, create jobs in Idaho, and lower the price of goods

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This Week, Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Representatives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson voted against the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act – legislation to create jobs in Idaho and secure our domestic supply chains. This bill could have significant positive impacts on Idaho’s economy; semiconductor devices are the state’s leading export.

“Idaho’s computer chip manufacturing industry provides good jobs and is critical to our state’s economy. The CHIPS and Science Act is a popular, bipartisan bill that will ensure our manufacturers stay competitive on a global scale. Without domestic computer chip production, our nation is vulnerable from both a security and a supply chain perspective. I can’t understand why Idaho’s Republican Congressman would play politics with a core component of our state’s economy,” said Idaho Democratic Party Chair Lauren Necochea.

According to the Washington Post, the bill that Idaho Republicans voted against, “would provide $52 billion in subsidies to domestic semiconductor manufacturers…in a bid to strengthen the United States’ competitiveness and self-reliance in what is seen as a keystone industry for economic and national security.” The U.S. Census Bureau reports semiconductor devices are Idaho’s leading export, valued at $265 million in 2020. Idaho’s semiconductor industry supports more than 8,200 high-paying jobs, with an output valued at $2.3 billion and 2.84 percent of Idaho’s GDP.

MY CRITIQUE OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY PLATFORM ON EDUCATION
By Terry Gilbert, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

July, 20, 2022

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I have concluded after reading the 2022 Idaho Republican platform on education that it could have been enthusiastically adopted by the southern segregationists of the 1950s. It would be equally popular with the anti-public school libertarians and fat-cat privateers of today.

It is a document written in anticipation of eventually replacing public schools with a hodgepodge of charter schools, homeschools, private and parochial schools. It clearly reveals a long-term strategy on the part of Idaho Republicans of attacking public education and public educators so that our citizens look with disfavor on our public education system.

The GOP platform calls for encouraging the non-use of public schools and other forms of so-called “parents ‘ choice,” and references non-public education options throughout the document. In other words, Idaho Republicans want public money to go to private, for-profit schools.

The Republican Far Right platform could have been dictated – and probably was – by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

In recent months, we have all become quite aware of continuing attempts by Republicans to indoctrinate the public by claiming that Idaho teachers are educating our students in critical race theory, an imaginary threat created to scare parents. The irony is that this platform itself is a classic case of indoctrination. Consider the following fuzzy criticisms that the platform leaves undefined:

•“Social emotional learning,” which, in the real world, means helping students learn critical life skills such as self-management;

•”Diversity,” which, in the real world, means learning to accept

people other than one’s immediate family and friends, a crucial attitude in a nation of 330 million people;

•”Equity,” which, in the real world, means striving for justice for all, and the list goes on.

In other words, the Idaho GOP platform tilts at educational windmills and attempts to describe positive educational outcomes as somehow threatening. At the same time, it refers in a positive light to “replacement theory,” which is a White Nationalist call to restrict our country to whites only, and “queer theory,” which encourages hatred of gay and lesbian citizens who are worthy of our love and support.

The platform professes support for “fair and equitable funding.” It sounds good, but the language refers not to funding of our public education system – the cornerstone of our democracy – but rather of funding for individual students.

True equitable funding has not been a hallmark of Republican legislators for some time now. Indeed, just this year, they cheated our children and their families by amassing a huge surplus while pushing the cost of education onto homeowners once again, through never-ending school bonds and levies.

The GOP platform totally fails to address the need to maintain our public school buildings. Why does the legislature continue to ignore the Idaho Supreme Court, which ruled way back in 2005 that Idaho’s funding of educational facilities was wholly inadequate to meet its Constitutional mandate? Indeed, a recent study revealed that after all these years of neglect it would now take $874 million just to bring our public school facilities up to acceptable standards.

The platform is similarly silent on a whole host of educational

issues, including threats to libraries and librarians, attacks on students’ freedom to read, and the fact that Idaho is one of only six states that do not offer any funding for preschool even while 57% of Idaho children under age six live with parents who work outside the home.

In sum, one may wish to read the Idaho Democratic Party education platform to get a broader understanding of the issues facing our public schools and their possible solutions.

The not-so-secret war on our public schools
By Terry Gilbert, Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

April, 12, 2022

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Don’t be fooled this election year when you hear candidates talk about “school choice.” It sounds good, but it’s really an all-out attack on our public schools by those who would destroy them for profit, at our children’s expense and the expense of the schools that are the heart and soul of our communities.

As a lifelong educator and candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction, I urge you to keep an eye out for those buzzwords. The issue is critical, and its outcome may be determined by my race.

Proponents of state funding for private schools say parents need more “choice” in education.  The truth is parents have many choices when it comes to education – neighborhood schools, magnet schools, charter schools, innovation schools. But the profiteers want to line their own pockets and slowly starve our public schools to death.

This covert war has been raging for years, but with the rise of extremism and the absence of leadership from our State Department of Education, those who would replace public schools with for-profit schools have started to come out of the woodwork.  Their water-carriers are the Idaho Freedom Foundation and its acolytes in the legislature.  The President of the IFF calls our public schools “grotesque,” and says “The government should not be in the education business.”  One of his loyal followers in the Legislature, Judy Boyle of Midvale, says “Our public schools can use some competition.”

The idea that our public schools are “grotesque” is in itself grotesque; as for “competition,” the only thing that would do would be to weaken and eventually destroy our public schools.

For all of American history, as I taught my students, free public schools have been the foundation of our democracy, and are enshrined in the Constitutions of many states. Idaho’s language reads: “The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the legislature of Idaho to establish and maintain a general uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.”

We can – and will – debate whether the legislature has met its Constitutional mandate, but there is no question that the concept of profit-making schools is anathema to our Constitution and our way of life.

In my 40-plus years of teaching, public education advocacy and mentoring elementary students, I have seen the wisdom of our Constitutional mandate up close and personal.  And I can tell you that it is the very foundation of our society, and our last and best bulwark against authoritarianism and tyranny.

And do not think for a moment that “school choice,” as it is being espoused in my race, is an Idaho idea.  The money comes largely from out-of-state, from the for-profit educational corporations and others who share their agenda.  It is “dark money” in the worst sense of those words.

So don’t be fooled this election year.  And let’s tell those profiteers to go back where they came from.

One Bite at a Time
By Chair Laureen Necochea

The GOP supermajority has been in power for the better part of three decades. They control the House, Senate, and every single constitutional office in Idaho. Still, year after year they fail to implement common sense solutions that will address these problems.

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There’s an old joke that goes, “How do you eat an elephant?” Since becoming chair of the Idaho Democratic Party, this adage has come to my mind more than once. The answer? Well, one bite at a time of course.

 

You and I know there are big problems in our state. Idahoans on fixed incomes are being forced out of their houses because of rising property taxes, schools across Idaho must pass supplemental bonds and levies just to keep their lights on, and each and everyday it’s becoming more difficult for working Idaho families to get ahead. The other elephant in the room? The GOP supermajority has been in power for the better part of three decades. They control the House, Senate, and every single constitutional office in Idaho. Still, year after year they fail to implement common sense solutions that will address these problems. 

 

Returning balance to our state and dismantling the GOP supermajority can seem as daunting as eating an elephant. But already, the nineteen Democrats in the House and Senate make a tremendous difference. During the 2022 Legislative Session, a majority of Republicans voted against funding the Department of Public Health, the Supreme Court, full-day kindergarten, affordable workforce housing, the Commission on Hispanic Affairs, the Commission on Aging, Division of Human Resources, the Division of Financial Management, the Attorney General’s Office, child care assistance, the Developmental Disabilities Council, Commission on the Arts, the Domestic Violence Council, the Workforce Development Council, the Office of Species Conservation and more. The only reason the budgets were saved is because every Democrat voted in support of these critical agencies and services.

 

And if we held just two more seats? Democrats could have saved the original library budget that was slashed by $3.5 million in the final moments of the session. 

 

So, that’s how we eat an elephant. Door by door, conversation by conversation, dollar by dollar, and race by race. It’s why we’ve built a year-round organizing program that applies constant pressure in key areas across the state and why we're investing historic resources in campaigns and communities across our great state. 

A message from our new chair:
Laureen Necochea

Sitting on the floor of the Idaho House Representatives, I have a front row seat to the madness. Republicans are literally trying to jail librarians, doctors, women who receive abortion care, and loving parents seeking evidence-based, gender-affirming medical care for their children.

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I am humbled to have been elected chair of the Idaho Democratic Party. My mother taught me early on the fundamental reason to be a Democrat: Democrats care about people.


Sitting on the floor of the Idaho House Representatives, I have a front row seat to the madness. Republicans are literally trying to jail librarians, doctors, women who receive abortion care, and loving parents seeking evidence-based, gender-affirming medical care for their children.They refuse to condemn one of their own when she shows up to a white nationalist meeting. They are trying to make it easier for unscrupulous landlords to cheat renters. And they are doing everything they can to stop people–especially young people–from voting.


That’s what they do out in the open!

 

Behind closed doors, the Kootenai County Republicans plotted to pose as Democrats and run as precinct captains in our party, install an “antisemitic troll” as party chair, and funnel our funds to Republicans. Can you imagine if Democrats posed as Republican candidates to infiltrate the party and install morally reprehensible leadership? We would never do that and not just because the Republicans already did that job.


We have a moral imperative to fight back with everything we’ve got. Our state and her people are too important to let them fall victim to the conspiracy theories, extremism, and hate that has infected the Republican Party. I also want to share the good that’s possible when we elect Democrats. Democrats make a difference! And when we elect more Democrats, we can make more of a difference. On the House floor, I sit next to Rep. Sally Toone, and she has a little notepad where she makes a note every time our caucus made the difference on a vote.


This year so far we’ve saved rental assistance, homeowner’s assistance, a small business credit initiative, the Workplace Housing Fund and more…in spite of a majority of House Republicans voting in opposition to these investments in the people of Idaho.


With more Democrats, we can do more good. Last year, we needed just one more Democrat to save the preschool grant, $6 million a year so that kids could have early learning opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.


Every seat matters in the Legislature. And we need Democrats in every space where decisions are made! All the way down to the precinct level where we organize our neighborhoods. We have momentum, we have great candidates and we have plans. The Idaho Democratic Party is strong. Six months ago, our party hired Raquel, our first staffer dedicated to organizing in the Latino community. Raquel is working her tail off and making fantastic progress, but she needs additional staff under her. We are now doing year-round organizing, talking to voters twelve months a year.


We’re working hard, but we can’t do it alone. It’s up to every Idaho Democrat to take a stand.


If, in the last two years, you volunteered for Democrats or contributed to Idaho Democrats at the candidate, legislative district, county party, or state party level, thank you! This year, we need you to do all of that again, plus recruit 5-200 friends to join you. We need to all dig deeper and work harder to turn this state around. Please consider giving what you can to move our cause forward. 


Together we can turn this state around. 

All Idaho children deserve safe, well-funded school facilities
By Idaho Senator David Nelson

Idaho public schools are the backbone of our local communities. But for many districts, facilities are crumbling due to age and a lack of resources needed to make repairs. This issue is further compounded by Idaho’s extreme population growth in recent years, leading to significant overcrowding in many schools, which can now only be fixed with new construction.

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The Idaho Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations recently found 20% of schools should be retired in the next 10 years, and 53% need significant maintenance or else they will soon fall in that category as well. The estimated cost to bring just the buildings in the 77 districts surveyed up to a “good” condition is at least $847 million. It will take between $1-2 billion for all school districts.

And we still don’t have enough information to really know the extent of the problem. The last statewide facility condition assessment of K-12 public school buildings was in 1993. At the time, districts had a total of almost $700 million in building repairs, additional facilities, or upgrades. When adjusted for inflation to 2020 dollars, that amount is $1.3 billion.

Currently, Idaho is almost last in the U.S. for funding school maintenance. We may be underfunding maintenance and capital investment by as much as $767 million per year due to the antiquated system we use to determine how much to spend.

A 2005 Idaho Supreme Court ruling found the legislature failed to meet its constitutional obligation to sufficiently fund school buildings. That still hasn’t changed. Of all 50 states, Idaho spent the least per student on school buildings at an average of $1,080. The national average was $2,306. The legislature has a yearly responsibility to revisit the formula used to calculate replacement value and revise, if necessary, but hasn’t done so since 2008.

Schools are forced to rely heavily on supplemental levies and bonds to address district needs — mechanisms designed as fallback systems that are now responsible for keeping the lights on. Since 2006, the year school funding shifted to the sales tax, 111 of 120, or 92%, school districts willing to run a bond had an active supplemental levy in place.

Only 40% of bonds — which require two-thirds voter approval — passed in that same time as well. If the voting requirement was lowered to 60%, most would have passed.

Idaho’s negligence isn’t just damaging our schools and communities but our children’s futures, and it presents a serious public safety issue. The legislature needs to address this issue immediately, and I want to see two things happen.

We should create a state bond matching fund that aims to match half of the funding for new construction and remodeling. All of Idaho’s neighboring states, except Nevada, have grant programs that help districts with the building plans and provide capital funding for projects. If we appropriated $100 million yearly to start, we could make a real difference.

We also need to change the bond approval rate from the current two-thirds standard. No neighboring state has that supermajority threshold. We should set it at 60% and consider having a voter turnout threshold added. The Idaho Constitution would need to be amended to do this, which allows all Idahoans to weigh in. This process should start now.

We can’t continue to kick the problem down the road and shirk our constitutional obligation. It is our job to ensure public schools receive adequate and uniform support, so we can best foster the next generation. But if safe facilities don’t exist, that can’t happen. Our educators and children deserve better. It’s beyond time to invest in Idaho schools

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