Opinion: Legislators aren’t delivering on Idaho’s needs

As we approach the end of another year, it’s common to look ahead. Some of us set goals or get excited about new projects. We think about what we want to focus on. Should we pay more attention to our health? Is it time to get serious about our finances?

In the state of Idaho, a new year brings with it the legislative session. Unfortunately, during the last few years, the arrival of a new year and a new legislative session has been an occasion of dread for the citizens of our state.

No matter how long we asked for the state Legislature to help us with affordable health care, they refused to expand Medicaid. We had to take matters into our own hands with a citizen initiative.

Idahoans have been begging the Legislature to adequately fund education for years. And the Legislature, while paying lip service to educational ideals, refuses. In fact, it appears that the coming legislative session will likely focus on introducing measures designed to further undermine public education in Idaho.

This refusal to act on behalf of Idahoans — indeed, this disgusting insistence on enacting legislation that causes actual harm — has led to another citizen initiative designed to force the Legislature to provide funding for our educators and needed programs.

Another issue we’re dealing with right now revolves around affordable housing. Idaho has millions of dollars that can be used for housing assistance. It’s sitting there — from the federal government. It’s too bad that, rather than looking for ways this money can help our communities, our so-called leaders are instead grandstanding and making speeches. If we don’t take advantage of that federal money, it gets sent to another state.

Why won’t our legislators take advantage of these funds? Millions of dollars for education (remember the early learning money?) and affordable housing are at risk of being sent elsewhere, all because many in our Legislature are more worried about a made-up culture war than doing what we elected them to do.

It’s not that these legislators aren’t interested in federal dollars. Many have shown in the past that they’re perfectly willing to accept federal money in the form of forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans, agriculture subsidies, tax breaks and other incentives that come their way. When it comes to their own enrichment, federal money is no problem. They’ll take it all day long.

But we ask them to give our children a competitive start? We ask them to fund our teacher salaries? We beg them to fix the problems they created with property taxes? We suggest they focus on affordable housing for Idaho’s working families? Well, they’re just too busy wasting taxpayer dollars on special sessions where they rail against the manufactured outrage du jour.

As we move into the new year, let’s re-examine our values and priorities. Let’s think about who we want to be as Idahoans and in our community. Then let’s truly hold our legislators accountable when they don’t deliver.

Miranda Marquit, Master of Business Administration, is a nationally recognized financial expert, speaker and writer. She is the state committeewoman for the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee.