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Capitol rally opposes cuts to health programs (video)

Capitol rally opposes cuts to health programs (video)

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
April 16, 2010
Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
Author Image
April 16, 2010

Two dozen state workers and supporters rallied on the steps of the Idaho Capitol Friday against spending reductions and office closures at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW), as well as other state spending reductions.  The gathering was intended to show support for affected workers, build pressure to reverse lawmakers’ spending decisions, and ask candidates in this year’s election to share their ideas for state spending and revenues.

The rally came on a furlough day for many DHW state employees.  DHW announced it will close nine offices and lay off 126 workers across the state within the next two months.  Those moves will help the department meet a $7 million reduction in spending approved by lawmakers to mitigate lower state tax revenues.  DHW has also been instructed to find millions in savings in Medicaid spending, much of which goes to private health care providers.

Henry Krewer, a volunteer with the Corpus Christi House dayshelter for homeless people in Boise, said lawmakers need to keep health and human services a priority.  He also said that while the rally for state workers was smaller than Thursday’s rally organized by Tea Party Boise, the attendees could still bring about change.

One DHW worker told the crowd about the effect that layoffs will have on her clients.  Leanne Lundquist is a nurse in Boise who works on state programs helping women with cancer.  She said the layoff of one of her colleagues will lead to worse service for women in Idaho.

The rally was organized in part by the Service Employees International Union and Idaho Association of Government Employees union.  SEIU/IAGE  organizer Alex Neiwirth said the DHW office closures will be detrimental to people and business in small towns.

Neiwirth said his union isn’t backing any specific changes like taxes or other revenue enhancements that could stall or reverse spending reductions, but said he wants candidates up for election this year to share their ideas.  He also said the group will likely make endorsements backing both Democratic and Republican candidates.  “We’re looking for practical problem solvers, and they show up in both parties,” he said.  “Hope’s not a good enough platform to deserve support from anyone.”

Karen McWilliams of Boise, who has relied on DHW for services, said lawmakers need to find more money for DHW and for public schools.

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