House and Senate Democrats gave a positive view of the 2015 legislative session in a Saturday morning press conference.
House Minority Leader John Rusche and Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett said Idaho Democrats had a hand in boosting education funding by 7.4 percent, securing $95 million in additional transportation funding, and passing a career ladder with stakeholder input, as well as advancing the conversation on raising the minimum wage and adding protections for gay and transgender people into Idaho’s Human Rights Act.
“Idaho Democrats share the values and goals of the vast majority of Idahoans,” Rusche said.
Lawmakers acknowledged frustration with some parts of the legislature, particularly negotiations with House Republicans over transportation and tax proposals. They also cited the failure of a child support compliance bill that could cost the state millions in federal dollars.
“The anger that was there yesterday is still there,” Rusche said. But, he added, Idahoans need to take a broad view of the legislative session.
Democrats praised Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter for keeping open lines of communication with the minority party throughout the session, and Stennett commended Senate majority leadership for doing the same. Discussions with the House majority were more closed off, lawmakers said, adding there are different dynamics and philosophies at play.
Sen. Roy Lacey, who served on both the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee and the transportation conference committee, had stronger words on negotiation deadlocks with House Republicans.
“As we came (into the conference committee) as a Senate committee, we were told go in there and let’s make a deal. Do whatever’s best for Idaho,” Lacey said. “The House Republicans came in there with the word to say no on everything we do.”
Lacey added that eventually, the process worked.
As the press conference wrapped up, Rusche emphasized the positive view on Democrats’ progress.
“We firmly believe that good ideas aren’t partisan,” Rusche said.
For more, including video of the press conference, watch next week’s Idaho Reports, Friday at 8 pm MST/7 pm PST.