AARP Reaction to Governor Otter's State of the State

Jan 10, 2011, 17:06 ET from AARP Idaho

AARP Urges State Leaders to Protect Idaho's Health & Education, Look at Options Beyond "Cuts Only" Approach & Commit to Fixing "Conscience" Law

Statement by Jim Wordelman, State Director for AARP in Idaho

BOISE, Idaho, Jan. 10, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter's State of the State address today, kicking off the 2011 State legislative session, AARP Idaho issued the following statement by Jim Wordelman, State Director for AARP in Idaho:

"Today, in his State of the State address, Governor Otter laid out his plan to charter Idaho through the rough budget waters ahead.  

"AARP commends the Governor for his focus to balance the Idaho's budget responsibly and improve Idaho's economy.  Otter's efforts convening a Medical Home Collaborative and creating the Idaho Health Care Council are both positive steps for patients, young and old, in Idaho.  

"As many Idaho families and residents, have seen and continue to see tough times, we must guard against an 'efficient' and 'effective' Idaho state government becoming a 'harsh' and 'hurtful' one.  A focus on the private sector is a key to improving Idaho's economy, but a focus on children, families and the elderly is also a critical balance to strike for the state's well being.

"While some cuts will be inevitable this year, AARP remains optimistic that our state leaders will look at all the options first, as opposed to taking a 'cuts only' approach to balancing the state budget.  Some AARP-backed options include: passing $1.25 increase to the state's cigarette tax, generating roughly $50 million for Medicaid; ensuring taxes on on-line purchases are collected at the same rate as taxes from traditional brick and mortar stores across Idaho bringing in about $30 million for education funding, and scrutinizing all tax exemptions which cost the state roughly $1.8 billion in revenue, with the same critical eye used to consider cuts to programs and services.  There will be other options coming forth, and AARP is encouraged by the Governor's call to legislators to earnestly hear and review them.      

"Though it wasn't mentioned in his State of the State, AARP will be working with the Governor and legislators to revisit Idaho's 'conscience' law, which Otter allowed to become law without his signature last year, to protect patient's rights, by ensuring their living wills and advance directives are honored.  AARP is committed to fixing the law this year.  Accomplishing this will, 'make a positive difference in the lives of Idahoans,' as the Governor calls on legislators to do.

"In the spirit of the Governor's 'family council' approach to the legislative session - discussions to include all Idaho citizens - AARP will be reaching out to its members across Idaho, encouraging them to get involved in discussions around budget cuts and other issues on their minds and helping them to bring their concerns to their legislators.  

"Facing of an estimated $340 million budget shortfall, at a time when Idaho unemployment is teetering on 9.5%, Idaho children, families and the 50+ population are looking for leadership on tough issues during tough times.  We're confident the Governor and State Legislator can do it in manner that has both a heart and a hammer."  

AARP is Idaho's largest membership organization with 180,000 members.

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