LABOR DAY OFFERS CHANCE TO CELEBRATE IDAHO’S PRIVATE-SECTOR JOB GROWTH
By Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter
Labor Day traditionally is a time for celebrating our working men and women, the folks who keep our society running, who keep us healthy, who build our communities, who feed and clothe us, who serve and protect us, and who sacrificed over the years to improve working conditions for all of us.
Work is the gold standard of self-determination and freedom. Work opens the doors to opportunity and helps us achieve our goals of independence and self-reliance. An appreciation of work is both a value to be passed from generation to generation and one goal among many to help us measure our success in life.
Job growth is a metric aggregating those individual success stories into a measure of broader economic progress. So it’s great news, and not surprising, that Idaho has been leading the nation in job growth. Our statewide unemployment rate now is 3.8 percent, down sharply from 9.7 percent in June and July 2009.
But it’s important to remember that while job growth is a primary indicator of an improving economy – especially when it raises per capita income levels in a community or a state – not all job growth is created equal.
Don’t get me wrong; good-paying jobs are inherently valuable wherever they are created. But economically and politically, growing the number of government jobs in society generally is not considered real progress. After all, government is the ultimate service industry. Its focus is not on producing or manufacturing but rather on improving the underlying conditions for private-sector economic growth.
The First Lady and I greatly value our hard-working State employees who strive every day to meet the needs of Idaho citizens. They have our deepest respect and gratitude for their labors, as do all whose bread is earned by the sweat of their own brow.
But except when the bottom fell out of the global economy in 2008-2009, job growth in Idaho’s State government has been consistently outpaced by private employment growth throughout my tenure as Governor. From my point of view that’s the proper dynamic between government employment and private-sector jobs, and it’s the way I am committed to keeping it while I hold this office.
Even in 2009-2010, when the private sector was taking it on the chin to the tune of an actual 1.1-percent decline in Idaho jobs, our State government reduced its employment by 5.3 percent. And as the economy started to turn around, Idaho businesses began growing jobs at rates from two to four times that of the State.
That was and remains a result of entrepreneurs and business leaders expressing confidence in Idaho’s recipe for job growth and economic success: Keep government small, efficient and responsive; live within the people’s means, and keep more money in taxpayers’ hands.
We still have a lot of work to do. We need more and better-educated, better-trained people to meet the growing demands of our employers. We are addressing that need through my K-through-Career focus on improving education and workforce development with sustainable investments in our public schools and post-secondary educational opportunities.
Some critics also contend the Tax Reimbursement Incentive we enacted a couple of years ago goes beyond government’s proper role in Idaho’s economy. But it’s tough to take issue with public policy that in two years has resulted in 4,737 new jobs in Idaho and $2.1billion in new payroll generating an estimated $216.7 million in new State revenue and a 400-percent return on taxpayer investment.
Add that kind of proven carrot to make our outstanding work force and world-class standard of living even more attractive to employers and the result is more jobs, higher wages, and the kind of economic environment that really makes Labor Day a time to celebrate Idaho!