Letters from the West

Idaho senators support bipartisan bill that helps rural schools

Both Republican Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch voted in the 92-8 majority supporting the bill that not only fixed the Medicare formula but also provided a two-year extension to the Secure Rural Schools program, which is important for many rural Idaho counties.

The bill repealed the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate formula and replaced the practice of reimbursing doctors for services to paying them for performance. Conservatives have long lobbied for the entitlement reform but many struggled over the vote because it did not including budget offsets so it was viewed as adding to the national debt.

"Although this does not adopt the necessary offsets immediately, it does establish in our federal budget the recognition that our work on this legislation is not done," the Idaho senators said in a statement.

Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson joined the bipartisan 392-37 majority supporting the bill in the House. GOP Rep. Raul Labrador voted against it.

The National Association of Counties hailed the vote, which authorizes $500 million for local schools and roads with the Secure Rural Schools extension than helps 720 counties and 4,000 school districts across 41 states.