Julie VanOrden faces challenge for state House seat

Julie VanOrden

Julie VanOrden

By Bryan Clark Post Register

Incumbent Rep. Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, faces a primary challenge from the right this year. Julianne Young, a Blackfoot stay-at-home mother, is challenging VanOrden for the District 31B House seat.

District 31 encompasses Bingham County. VanOrden, who serves as chairwoman of the House Education Committee, said she’s running to continue “making a difference” in Idaho’s education policy.

“I still have some legislation that needs to be run,” VanOrden said. “I don’t think we’ve fully implemented all of the governor’s task force recommendations.”

Young said she was motivated by concerns over proposed changes to the state’s sex education system, which she said would have harmed parental rights.

Julianne Young

Julianne Young

“There were some concerns of Bingham County residents that were not being heard,” Young said. “I am a person who for a long time has championed more grassroots actions.”

VanOrden says that sex education bill was meant to address technical legal problems in the state’s current sex education law. She said she’s proud of recent work to increase teacher pay through the career ladder, which has resulted in reduced turnover rates in Idaho schools.

“We’ve made some good changes, and we’ve been able to increase teacher pay,” she said. “We want to be able to produce good, educated workers.”

VanOrden said she was also proud to launch a pilot program that allows residents living far from Boise to give remote testimony on bills coming before the Legislature. Young said she is concerned that there is excess “bureaucratic waste” in the state’s education system.

She pointed to recent funding for an investigation of the state’s teacher evaluation system, which she characterized as “an evaluation of the evaluations” as such an example. “What a waste,” she said.

Young said she opposes Medicaid expansion because she worries it could cost the state more than expected.

“States that have expanded (Medicaid) are facing a financial disaster,” she said.

She said she would support measures such as allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines and allowing the sale of plans that don’t comply with the federal Affordable Care Act.

VanOrden said she thought the Legislature was close to finding a solution for the Medicaid gap population — families who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for Affordable Care Act subsidies — with this year’s proposed “dual waiver” program, which was killed without a floor vote in the House.

With small changes, she thinks a similar policy could be enacted next session.

“I think we were close this year,” she said.

On tax policy, VanOrden said she previously opposed repeal of the sales tax on groceries, fearing that it could endanger state public school budgets.

But she supported a large income tax cut that passed this year. She said she favors a wide variety of tax cuts, so long as they don’t put the school system at risk.

Young said she supports repealing the grocery tax, but agreed that its impact on state budgets has to be examined closely.

“I am a proponent for cutting taxes any time you can, but of course we have responsibilities,” she said.

No Democrat has filed in the race, so the Republican primary is likely to determine the final outcome of the race.