Reliance on government and government programs will be one of the major issues between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney in this fall’s general election. They appear not to be in much pro or con dispute for the 2013 session of the Idaho Legislature based on a survey by the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF).
An IFF survey asked legislative candidates running in the May 15 primary about reducing and reforming unemployment insurance, Medicaid and food stamps. The respondents overwhelmingly favor changes in all three programs.
With increased Medicaid costs to the state, a rising burden in unemployment insurance and food stamp usage climbing, most candidates answering the survey feel at some point enough has to be enough.
Of the 92 candidates who responded to the survey, 59 of them supported at least some sort of reduction or reform to those entitlement programs. Another eight opposed reform or reduction and eight more said they weren’t sure. Some chose not to answer the question.
For those in support of reforming or reducing the programs, two general themes came out in their explanations.
First, the government should not be involved, or be minimally involved, and that at the current cost to taxpayers and the state, the programs are not sustainable.
Second, Idaho should tailor programs based on what Idahoans specifically need, not what federal government regulations stipulate.
Incumbent Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, believes these programs have their place, but parameters need to be clearly defined. “I believe that there is a place for providing temporary help under limited circumstances. However, defining those parameters is where we often get into trouble. The bottom line is that we are not able to afford the current array of such programs, and we need to continue to examine them for reform.”
Michael Law, a Republican running for the House in District 22, feels getting the government out of these programs and having private citizens and organizations provide assistance is the way to go about it. “These programs must be reduced, reformed and eventually returned to private citizens, non-profits and charitable organizations. Government unconstitutionally redistributes wealth in these programs, destroys the incentive to be productive and unnecessarily burdens taxpayers.”
Law also believes there would be an economic boon to employers with reform of unemployment insurance. “The elimination of unemployment insurance, for example, would allow an employer to pay higher wages and/or hire more employees that will produce goods and services, rather than continue to pay someone for unproductivity.”
The eight who were opposed to reforming the programs believe that these programs are vitally needed, with a couple candidates saying expanding these programs would be better. But, all of them did seem to believe some sort of limited reform would be good.
Bob Croker, a Republican candidate running for the House in District 29, said the problem with the programs is abuse and preventing that is the answer. “As a blanket statement, I would have to oppose this issue. However, this is not to say that reform in these programs is not to be considered. It is difficult to take something away that has existed for a long time, it is also wrong to take something away that is good and needed. Cutting abuse to these programs is the answer.”
An independent candidate, Gus Voss, said he was opposed to reducing or eliminating the programs; he thinks they should be bigger. “I strongly oppose reducing or ending participation in such programs. I am in favor of reforms to broaden the programs.” Voss is running for a House seat in District 17.
For those candidates who were unsure, reform seemed to be the theme. All of the candidates who explained their answers were against eliminating the programs. Instead, they focused on the programs becoming more efficient.
Lary Larson, a Democrat running for a House seat in District 34, said circumstances should dictate how entitlement programs are dealt with. He believes they have a place, but regular reviews should be done to determine if they are worth it or not.
“There are dozens of entitlement programs, and they are not all of equal value,” he said. “Entitlement programs should be treated just like special tax breaks, exemptions, deductions, credits, etc., for certain people. We should regularly review all such programs that grant special benefits to special interests to be sure that they are really what we want to do as a community, whether we can afford them, whether we can justify their cost, how badly needed they are, etc.”
“Programs that are justified ought to be continued,” said Larson. “If other programs are needed and can be afforded, we ought to implement them. Whether we expand or reduce existing programs or adopt new ones depends on the circumstances.”
To read the full surveys from candidates, click here.
Note: IdahoReporter.com is published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.