We know that when our small towns and communities thrive, Idaho thrives. Idaho Democrats have long supported investment in these communities to drive growth, create jobs, and ensure rural youth have the same opportunities as kids across the state.
But for too long, rural Idaho has been left to struggle under the weight of broken promises and failed leadership. It’s time to do better.
When rural Idaho is neglected, key sectors of our economy like food production, forestry, and renewable energy suffer. Opportunities for children and working families also narrow. Without access to affordable homes or child care, families are pushed out of their communities to find jobs elsewhere. Consequently, rural industries and small businesses are challenged by labor shortages and a shrinking customer base.
Rural Idaho has different needs than our cities and we need policies that acknowledge this.
Nationally, Democrats delivered big wins that will benefit rural Idaho, including long-needed repairs to roads and bridges that will bring products to market and a $583 million investment in expanded broadband access in our state. Thousands of Idahoans living in small towns and communities will be able to access the reliable, affordable internet they need to work, learn skills, and conduct business.
Here at home, Idaho Democrats are working to deliver solutions, despite pushback from Republican legislators.
Rural Idahoans face limited access to health care and Idaho ranks last in the nation for physicians per capita. The Republican supermajority’s criminalization of medical care is driving more doctors and nurses out of state, causing the discontinuation of rural labor and delivery services, among other issues. When a bill advanced to incentivize nurses to serve rural areas, Democrats backed it unanimously. It passed by a single vote. Idaho Democrats also overcame Republican opposition to increase investments in rural first responders because timely treatment in a medical emergency should not depend on your zip code.
Our rural schools need resources as they face inadequate, crumbling facilities and severe staff shortages. Idaho Democrats continue to advocate for fair funding. In 2022, Democrats successfully passed legislation to incentivize educators to take rural teaching positions. It took several years to overcome GOP opposition to this commonsense proposal.
Whether it comes to approving desperately-needed grant dollars for preschool and child care access or investing in workforce training, it has been hard to understand Republican legislators’ opposition to policies that address rural Idaho’s needs.
By prioritizing investments in our rural communities and industries, we can create a stronger, more resilient Idaho for generations to come. The Idaho Democratic Party Rural Caucus is ready to be a strong and united voice for the 500,000 people who call rural Idaho home.
Lauren Necochea Idaho Democratic Party Chair
Sally Toone Rural Caucus Chair