Idaho gubernatorial Republican hopeful Brad Little said while he prefers the dual-waiver health care bill model, he would not repeal the Medicaid expansion initiative if it hits the November ballot and is passed by Idaho voters.
Lt. Gov. Little addressed about 20 area residents Tuesday morning at the 1912 Center in Moscow a week before Idaho's May 15 primary election.
The dual-waiver proposal would have covered about half of the gap population, but it did not gain enough support in the Legislature during the past session to pass.
"We have absolutely got to address these people in the gap," Little said.
He said the working poor are being discriminated against because residents "below them" are receiving full health care and those "above them" are receiving a large tax subsidy.
If the voter initiative passes, Little said he would work with the Legislature to make it work for Idaho.
Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador, another Idaho Republican gubernatorial candidate, said last month if voters elect him governor and pass the initiative, he would consider working to overturn the initiative.
Little also spoke at length about education.
Depending on how much available funding is necessary, Little said, if elected, he wants to pour more money into early childhood education.
"If we're going to spend half our money on education, we got to get these kids reading
proficiently at the end of the third grade," he said.
He said he also wants to increase starting teacher salaries to $40,000 to show teachers they are valued. The starting salary was $33,400 last year, according to idahoednews.org.
In response to one audience member's claim that Idaho ranks near the bottom when it comes to education, Little said the ranking is based on parents' income levels, whether or not the state pays for pre-Kindergarten education and other criteria that do not reflect students' success.
He said Idaho students rank ahead of Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Montana in ACT test scores.
"We are not last," Little said. "I go to enough graduations. I go to enough schools, and what's the problem in Idaho and all over is these kids are coming less prepared to their first day of school."
To better prepare them, Little said he wants to fuel kindergarten through third grade education to allow those students to advance.
"We're a very conservative state, but we are accelerating the amount of money we're putting into K-12 relative to almost all the other states around," he said. "I'd like to do it faster, but we've got these constraints in a lot of areas."
When addressing a question on college affordability, Little said he encourages high school students to take dual credit, college classes while in high school, to more cheaply gain college credits. Online college classes can also be a cheaper alternative than attending a college in person, he said.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.