Bringing the Economy Home


How Obamacare Creates An Insurance Industry Ad Blitz

Molly Messick / StateImpact Idaho

Karen Early is the director of corporate communications for Blue Cross of Idaho, the state's largest insurer.

One of Blue Cross of Idaho’s new television commercials opens with a chirpy jingle.  “You’re protected in the sun, you’re protected when it rains,” the song begins.  The pitch is clear: this is the insurer for you, no matter your lifestyle.

For Blue Cross of Idaho, this is more than an advertisement.  It’s a big step.

“This is the first time the company has ever, in its 65 plus years of existence, actually gone out with a brand campaign to explain who we are,” says Karen Early, the company’s director of corporate communication.

She says it’s a direct response to the Affordable Care Act.  “Literally, the day after the bill passed was the day we all looked at each other and said, ‘Things are going to change a lot,’ Early says. Continue Reading

PBS Frontline Documentary ‘Poor Kids’ Highlights Growing Poverty In The U.S., In Idaho The Story Is Similar

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

A child waits with a box of food at a food distribution center.

As the holiday season gets underway, the PBS show Frontline premiered a new documentary this week that tells the story of child poverty in America through the eyes of kids.

It’s called Poor Kids, and the hour-long program weaves together the similar stories of three families living in poverty, and trying to work their way out of it.

For a family of four, an annual income of $23,050 or less is considered in poverty.  Today’s median household income is $50,054.  In Idaho, the median income is $46,423.  Last year, 7 percent of Idahoans had incomes that amounted to less than 50 percent of the poverty line, according to a Census Bureau report. Continue Reading

Congressman Mike Simpson And Challenger Nicole LeFavour Square Off In Boise

Republican Congressman Mike Simpson and Democratic state Senator Nicole LeFavour debated on Idaho Public Television Sunday night.

LeFavour, an eight-year veteran of the Idaho Legislature is trying to unseat Mike Simpson, who has represented Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District since 1998.

In case you missed it, here’s the hour-long debate:

Source: Idaho Public Television

Idaho Congressional Debates Continue Sunday

Headshots Courtesy of Candidates

Idaho congressional candidates; Farris, Labrador, LeFavour, Simpson.

Idaho Congressional debates continue this weekend in Boise.

Seven-time incumbent Republican Mike Simpson and his challenger Democratic state Sen. Nicole LeFavour debate Sunday evening at the Statehouse.

It will be broadcast live on Idaho Public Television, and rebroadcast on Boise State Public Radio next Tuesday.

I’m on the panel of journalists asking questions of Simpson and LeFavour.  Do you have specific questions you’d like answers to? Continue Reading

“60 Minutes” Highlights Unique Program To Put People Back To Work

CBS News 60 Minutes’ story Trapped in Unemployment follows a group of jobless 40-and 50-somethings.  They’re participants in a program aimed at getting people back to work through internships.

The story takes place in Connecticut, some 2,000 miles away from Idaho.  But the stories in the 60 Minutes piece don’t stray far from the narratives in our Jobless in Idaho series.

As correspondent Scott Pelley puts it, “There’s a new minority group: the long-term unemployed.”

The Idaho Department of Labor reported in November 12,200 Idahoans have exhausted all unemployment benefits since the start of the recession.  It’s unclear how many of those people found work.  But according to December’s monthly jobless report 64,100 Idahoans were still unemployed.  That doesn’t include the number of people who may be underemployed or who’ve stopped searching for a job.

As Idaho’s jobless rate keeps trending downward, the hope is more people are having success at finding permanent employment.  But until more concrete data is available later this year, we just won’t know.

State of the Union to Focus on Economy

Alex Wong / Getty Images

President Barack Obama will deliver his final State of the Union speech of his first term tonight before Congress and a nationally televised audience.  It’s been widely reported the President’s speech will focus on the economy.

White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe stopped by NPR Morning Edition for a preview of the president’s speech.

“The central challenge that we are facing right now is we came out of a steep recession, the worst since the Great Depression, and the American people want to know how are we going to continue to climb out of it,” Plouffe said. “And that’s what the president is going to lay out tonight: A very specific blueprint for how we build an America that’s durable and that works for as many people in this country as possible.”

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Governor Otter: New Health Care Law Hurts Idaho Job Creation

At Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s annual State of the State Address last January he said federal programs, like the Affordable Care Act hurt local job creation.

“For businesses, economic and financial uncertainty caused in large part by misguided federal programs and policies are undermining confidence in the marketplace. Employers have no idea what it will cost them to comply with new health care mandates. I understand their hesitation. But that’s stifling employment growth.” – Gov. Otter, 2011 State of the State

Nearly one year later, Otter stands by that statement.  He explains why when we interviewed him earlier this month:

Idaho is one of 26 states suing the federal government over the health care law.  At the same time, Idaho has accepted federal money to begin creating a health insurance exchange, an online marketplace for buying and selling insurance mandated by the federal law.  We’ll have more on that in the coming weeks.

Governor Otter: Any Tax Cuts Need to be Phased In

Nemanja Glumac / Getty Images

Talk of lowering taxes has already started among Idaho lawmakers.  At the Associated Taxpayers Conference earlier this month, legislative leaders said proposals to lower Idaho’s corporate tax and individual income tax rates will be part of the discussion.

Sen. Brent Hill (R-Rexburg) says lowering taxes this session will be met with resistance, and will likely require a trade-off in order to pass muster.  “If we lower the tax rate, for small businesses as well as corporations, I think you’ll see we’ll have to phase out the investment credit at the same time we lower the rate,” says Hill.

Governor Butch Otter says the state needs to be bringing in more revenue before it can consider lowering tax rates.  And if a tax decrease is agreed upon, it would need to happen over a period of time, the governor says. Continue Reading

Governor Otter: Legislators Can Count On My Budget

Aaron Kunz / Boise State Public Radio

Governor Otter meeting with StateImpact & Boise State Public Radio on Dec. 13, 2011

January 9th is a highly anticipated day for state budget wonks and policy nerds.  It’s the day Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter releases his budget proposal for the 2013 fiscal year.  The governor recommended spending about $2.5 billion general fund dollars for basic services like education, health care and corrections during the current budget year, FY12.  The legislature ended up spending more than $2.8 billion.  (You can see the breakdown of expenditures here).

Gov. Otter didn’t want to discuss the specifics of his 2013 budget proposal in advance, but we asked him about the budgeting process and how he approaches it. Continue Reading

Governor Otter: Every Generation Deals with Joblessness and We Live Through It

Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact Idaho

Governor Otter meeting with Boise State Public Radio & StateImpact Idaho on Dec. 13, 2011

As we previously reported, Idaho is one of a handful of states where the number of people without jobs has increased since the official end of the recession.  The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has ticked down in recent months, but there are still at least 65,000 people out of work.  Tens of thousands more don’t have enough work.

We recently spoke with Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter about the state of Idaho’s economy, including unemployment.  This interview was done before the most recent unemployment data was released.  So the numbers he mentions at the top are from October.  Here are November’s.

Governor Otter believes many Idahoans who’ve been out of the workforce for one or two years lack the necessary skills to jump back into a job. Click play to watch the segment…

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