Guest Opinions

Focus needed on women, families in Idaho

Earlier this year, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research released its “Status of Women in the States” report, and Idaho received an F, ranking 50th among the states and D.C. Among the rankings, Idaho receives F and D grades in employment and earnings, reproductive rights, political participation, and poverty and opportunity. Things haven’t changed for Idaho women since 2004, the last time the report was released.

On the education front, Gov. Butch Otter proposed in his State of the State address to bring education funding levels back to what they were in 2009. We need funding levels and policies to reflect what Idahoans need today, not what they had or needed in 2009.

It is 2016, and for middle-class families and women in Idaho, we need to deal in the now.

There is a desire on the part of some legislators to fund education and go home. Getting done quickly will not address the issues facing families in Idaho. Wages are not meeting the needs of families, forcing many to work two or three jobs. How can parents help their kids learn to read or help with homework if they are working days, nights and weekends and still struggling to make ends meet?

Several legislators have proposed legislation threatening Planned Parenthood, in spite of the minuscule amount of tax dollars spent in any given year. Governor Otter declined a request to investigate Planned Parenthood, stating that there are no grounds for an investigation, yet some of our colleagues continue to threaten to attack one of the most reliable names in health care for Idaho women. Why should we waste taxpayer dollars and our time on legislation designed to stop women in Idaho from accessing affordable birth control, cancer screenings and reproductive health care?

Instead of spending time pushing measures that jeopardize the health and financial security of the women in Idaho, we should focus on restoring balance and opportunity in Idaho by improving the lives of women and families across the state.

To that end we are proposing a slate of common-sense ideas that will create a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.

▪ Equal Pay for Equal Work — Women deserve the exact same pay as men for the work they do. This helps families and is only fair.

▪ Increase Minimum Wage — Gradually raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour will allow Idahoans to care for their families and not be forced to rely on assistance.

▪ 12 Months of Birth Control at a time — Allowing women to access a year’s worth of birth control has proved to significantly reduce unintended pregnancies.

Women are in the workforce in unprecedented numbers. Yet statistics show that median earnings for women are at only 78 percent of those of men. In fact, Idaho women won’t reach equal pay until the year 2074. These numbers are distressing. They force women into poverty and are especially tough on single mothers. We would like to see things change in our lifetime.

We call on the majority party to bring up these important policy proposals. Instead of spending time taking away long-standing services, let’s spend it looking at ways to positively affect the lives of thousands of people.

It’s time to address the needs of middle-class families and women in Idaho. It’s time to deal in the now.

Sen. Maryanne Jordan represents District 17 and Rep. Ilana Rubel represents District 18. Also co-signed by Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, District 19; Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, District 18; and Rep. Melissa Wintrow, District 19.