Vultures Circling Idaho’s Economy

The vultures are circling Idaho’s economy. As one business leader, CEO of WhiteCloud Analytics Bob Lokken said, “Idaho is in a ‘death spiral’ of poor education, low wages.”

Idaho department of Labor listed our poor wage standings:

  • 50th in average wage
  • 50th in per capita income
  • 50th in wage increases since 2007
  • 1st in percentage of minimum wage jobs

We did not get here by accident.

This is the result of two solid decades of one-party rule and a ruling party that is completely out of touch with what hard working Idaho families must do to make ends meet. They tell us they made “tough choices.” Just remember. Those tough choices were tough on Idaho families, while wealthy, well-connected special interests received tax cuts and sweet-heart deals.

Literally–and we mean literally–Idaho families cannot afford to keep GOP politicians in power. They have systematically stacked the odds against regular families and have cut the means of advancement and opportunity for our children.

We must get the word out about AJ Balukoff, a successful businessman and a passionate education advocate, for governor. Let folks know that Jana Jones will finally be the expert advocate for education that we have needed.

Idaho’s average wages worst in nation

Betsy Z. Russell The Spokesman-Review

Ranking last

Idaho ranked 50th among the states in 2012 for:

– Average wage

– Per-capita income

– Increases in wages since 2007

Where Idaho ranked 1st:

– Percentage of hourly wage earners who make the minimum wage, 7.7 percent. The national average was 4.7 percent.

* Source: Idaho Department of Labor

BOISE – Idaho has the worst wages in the nation.

The Famous Potatoes state ranks 50th for average annual wage, per-capita income, and for wage increases since 2007. It also has the greatest percentage of minimum-wage workers in America.

After hearing those figures Thursday as they reviewed Idaho’s economic outlook, state legislative leaders said it’s time to figure out how to reverse that “dubious distinction” for the state.

“I don’t think anybody’s proud of that No. 1,” said House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley. He quizzed the state’s new Labor director, Ken Edmunds, about why the state ranks so poorly. “We need to understand, I think, as a state this phenomenon here, so that we can address this as we shape policy to improve these numbers,” Bedke said.

Edmunds responded, “The issue going forward is the nature of our workforce. We’ve been creating jobs because of a need to create jobs and bring the unemployment rate down, but now we need to … push for more job creation in skilled areas.”

The nature of the jobs that Idaho creates, Edmunds said, “needs to shift now. … We need to focus on the nature of the jobs and raising the compensation of those jobs.”

That, he said, will require improvements in education. “Employers are saying they are not getting the employees they need at any level, as far as skills,” Edmunds said, “from recent high school graduates all the way up through people at high levels in computer science. … We have to change our approach.”

Edmunds just started as the state’s labor chief in November; he previously served on the state Board of Education.

Bedke called his answer “thought-provoking,” and said, “I think it’s incumbent upon all policy makers to pause and listen to what we’ve just been told.”

The exchange came as Idaho is poised for a legislative session that launches Monday with school funding and improvements as its top issue. Gov. Butch Otter convened an education stakeholders task force that over the past year and a half held hearings around the state, and near-unanimously endorsed a slate of sweeping reforms, from restoring tens of millions cut from the state’s schools during the recession, to boosting teacher pay and reforming how the state’s schools operate.

“I think that will be our blueprint going forward,” Bedke said, calling the school reform and funding issue “head and shoulders above the rest” of the many pressing issues facing Idaho lawmakers as they convene.

Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, agreed. The Legislature’s top challenge, he said, is “going to be finding money for education reforms.”

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