Democrats highlight goals for 2018 session

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BOISE — Idaho Democrats this week highlighted a series of measures they hope to introduce this year, including a Medicaid expansion bill and an early childhood education program.

In a news conference following Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s State of the State address on Monday, House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, described the governor’s Idaho Health Care Plan as a “stunt that won’t deliver what people need.”

Supporters say the initiative would lower health insurance premiums statewide and help about half the 78,000 working adults in Idaho’s Medicaid gap population be able to afford coverage.

Erpelding disputed that notion, saying “it will not lower health care costs, it won’t lower insurance rates, and it most certainly won’t lower property taxes. Had the governor stood firm and pushed for Medicaid expansion, he would have accomplished all three.”

Idaho counties rely on property taxes to pay for indigent health care costs for people who can’t otherwise afford medical treatment.

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said the minority caucus also plans to introduce a proposal for a statewide early childhood education program, as well as a loan forgiveness program designed to attract more teachers to rural school districts.

Other Democratic initiatives, she said, include bipartisan legislation eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders.

“These are not pie-in-the-sky ideas,” Stennett said. “These are actual plans with supporting legislation brought by Democratic legislators for our working families and youngsters.”

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