Congress was asked and advised to take responsible and immediate action to save Main Street and prevent a global depression. They were asked and advised to pass a bill with strong regulatory reforms and loans to shore up our struggling financial system. However, in yet another sign that the system in Washington is broken, the House approved a bill that is simply not the answer. This bill is a giveaway to Wall Street. It does not do enough to protect the American taxpayer, and it adds far too much debt to our record deficit. This is fiscal recklessness, and so I opposed the bill. I am strongly supportive of reducing taxes by offering credits for renewable energy, and I have been one of this state’s strongest advocates for extension of the Secure Rural Schools program. But the addition of those measures to a broken bill is yet another example of the failed system in Washington.
Action is required to shore up our struggling financial system, protect Main Street businesses and prevent a depression that would have a devastating impact on American taxpayers. The bailout bill passed was the wrong answer to rescuing our failing financial system. If taxpayer dollars are required to keep the economy afloat, those dollars should go out in the form of loans to banks and financial institutions, and in the form of credit to buyers of distressed mortgage-backed bonds. Simply purchasing those bonds is not the answer. This bill contains no regulatory reforms to prevent from happening in the future the problems that got us here in the first place. This bill contains over $100 billion in new spending that is NOT paid for, and comes at a time when we are already facing the largest federal budget deficit in U.S. history. This bill is loaded with special-interest pork spending and earmarks, such as eliminating the excise tax on wood-arrow makers in Oregon. Pork spending is one of the worst problems in Washington, and a critical financial rescue is not the time to be handing out special-interest favors.
There’s a lot of talk in Washington
about “bipartisanship.” But talk is cheap. This country is in trouble
and one of the reasons why is all the people who are blustering about
bipartisanship at the same time they’re attacking the very people
they call friends.
More than bipartisanship, what we need
in Washington is simple decency. We need legislators of both parties
who want to work with each other to solve problems, and not care who
gets the credit.
I grew up in a small town, and the values
I learned in that farm community served me well. I grew up to be a businessman
who had to bring different sides together to find solutions to tough
issues. I’m a Democrat who worked in a Republican White House and
worked to solve practical business problems in a thoroughly Republican
state. I was the CEO of a thriving forest products company which created
jobs, while spending my free time working hard to protect Idaho’s
I got things done because being sincere
and straightforward is the key to being effective. When I’m in Washington,
I’ll bring people together to sit down and work toward reasonable
solutions. We’ll get there by listening and collaborating, not by
yelling, disparaging or attacking. We’ll get there by being honest, decent and
straightforward, and by sharing a common commitment to the betterment
of our country.
I love Idaho, and its beauty has always
kept me here. I’ve hiked its mountains and fished its streams my whole
life. I’ve slept under its stars and gotten sunburned on its rivers.
I’m like anyone else who lives here. I want to protect our public
land for recreation. I want good habitat for wildlife. And I want clean
water to drink and clean air to breathe.
But I also spent almost 21 years working
in the forest products industry. I learned over the years that protecting
our land, good habitat and clean water are NOT incompatible with a strong
economy. Over the years we’ve had too many people on both sides of
the issue who demand an all-or-nothing approach. I spent decades in
the middle, watching people argue over details rather than look for
solutions over common ground.
Folks in Washington could learn from
the way Idahoans figured it out. What’s working is a common-sense
approach to conservation, one where we maintain water quality, good
habitat for game, places to snowmobile and trails to ride while respecting
and encouraging the part of our economy that depends on our natural
resources for good jobs.
People who think that way include hundreds
of thousands of Idahoans – hunters, fishermen, people who love the
outdoors. Like former Governor Cecil Andrus, those people are proud
to call themselves conservationists. I am, too.
The Secure Rural School program is critical to the future of a host of Idaho schools and counties. It has become a political football, caught up in partisan bickering and sniping as local governments have struggled to make ends meet. As a Congressman, one of my highest priorities will be working collaboratively and quickly on a long-term solution.
I get out to Idaho’s small towns as
often as I can. Folks in Washington may take a taxi to the nearest think-tank
when they need advice. I prefer seeking it from the smart, decent people
who eat lunch at places like the Ponderosa diner in Orofino. One of
the best parts about my career with a forest products company was working
with folks in small mill towns where my company did business.
But those places and people are struggling
more than most in these tough economic times. That’s why communities
and counties dependent on federal lands deserve to have the federal
government pay its fair share to support local schools and civic services,
and pay it in a predictable and certain way.
I am in favor of passing permanent extensions
of the Craig-Wyden and Payment-In-Lieu-of-Taxes plans for counties where
the federal government owns much of the land. But not without a serious
overhaul to make these plans multi-year commitments that local government
can count on for schools and roads.
Money from the plan was designed to replace
the revenue lost when the timber industry began pulling back and pulling
out of so many Idaho towns. That’s why we need more than just money
for the city and county governments – we need new industry. Bio-fuels
could be made from the wood fiber that would come from a more intelligent
approach to managing federal timberlands and protecting those areas
The “borrow and spend” mentality
of our political leaders over the last fifteen years has heaped debt
onto our kids and grandkids, lowered our standard of living and weakened
our national economy in the global marketplace. It’s also destroyed
our strength as a nation, increased our gas prices and made us susceptible
to a job-destroying recession. That’s simple economics.
You and I have to balance our checkbooks
every month, and as a CEO I ran a company that always found a way to
make money and build business. We should demand the same from Congress.
As a Congressman I will demand that the federal government balance its
budget, and I will refuse to vote for any new government spending program
unless we first agree on how to pay for it.
Handouts. Special interests. Back-room
That’s not how we do things here in
Idaho. But that’s how the “earmark” system works in Washington,
D.C. Earmarks are a way for special interests to undermine the fiscal
integrity of the budget process. They lead to poor government and wasteful
spending. That’s why as Idaho’s next Congressman I will fight hard
and vote for a rule that prohibits earmarks for Congress.
Idaho needs a representative in Washington
who won’t say one thing and do another. We need someone who will fight
for Idaho’s fair share of federal tax dollars without looking to give
handouts, without catering to special interests and without making back-room
I weathered three different recessions
as the leader of one of Idaho’s largest building materials companies.
Each time, I cut my own salary first, and I worked with every person in the company to put together
a mutually agreed plan. We called it “Project Bottom Line.” When
times were tough, we tightened expenses, improved efficiency and found
new ways to solve old problems. It meant we didn’t borrow money or
go into debt. We hunkered down and got stronger by focusing on the things
that mattered most. Then, when times were good, we were able to grow
and expand at a rapid pace.
We are in another recession, and it will
take leadership from Idaho’s next congressman to make sure Idaho families
get through it with their mortgages secure and with good-paying jobs
for the future. Unfortunately, over the last few years we’ve seen
a whole lot more gridlock than progress. And we’ve seen bailouts for
banks and other special interests, but not enough programs to create
new permanent jobs in high-growth sectors of the economy.
Congress must move quickly. I’ll work
to help federal agencies partner with local businesses to help them
create more jobs, particularly those focused on reducing our dependence
on foreign oil and making the U.S. energy independent. We’ll finance
it by eliminating tax breaks given to big oil companies and forcing
millionaires who flee the county to pay taxes at the same rate as any
other American. That’s a real solution – focus on the bottom line,
be smart about spending your money on things that build a strong future
and create new good-paying jobs in Idaho.
Back in 2003 a group of 25 CEOs got together
to talk about our kids’ futures. Idaho’s education system wasn’t
as good as it could have been, and our kids weren’t getting an education
good enough to compete effectively for the high-tech jobs of the future.
So we came together to support local schools and help make them as good
as they could be.
We decided to make community colleges
a priority. Idaho’s most populous region didn’t have one, which
made it difficult for many students to transition out of high school
and into higher education, and for many workers to get the training
they needed to improve their skills and progress to better jobs. So
we worked together with a wide assortment of groups, and in 2007 we
helped pass a measure that gave Southwest Idaho its first-ever community
As a co-founder and board member of Idaho
Business Coalition for Excellence in Education, I am passionate about taking
that success and building upon it to expand access to higher education.
That’s why, as a Congressman, I will fight to expand the Pell Grant
program to help Idaho students make college more affordable.
Washington needs more of the collaboration
we’ve shown here in Idaho. Our group of business leaders have worked
directly with local schools and school districts to help address their
needs. That’s a local solution. That works. What doesn’t work is
another dictate from Washington, D.C.
We need less interference from Federal
government in our local schools. As the father of two children in public
school, I know that No Child Left Behind is nothing more than a one-size-fits-all
unfunded mandate from Washington that measures too few things and makes
failures out of too many teachers and students. It must be reformed
to give back more local control to states and school districts. I think
it’s fine for the federal government to want to help local school
districts establish standards and to finance incentives, but decisions
must remain local.
For years we’ve had to listen to politicians
in Washington complain about our federal energy policy. And gas prices
have steadily gone up. Now prices are over $4 a gallon and we still
don’t have any real solution.
I’m a businessman. I’ve spent my
career running companies that gave back to their communities, that took
good care of their workers and that made money for their shareholders.
Profits aren’t bad. But record profits
that come from huge subsidies and high prices on a basic necessity are
flat-out wrong. The special tax breaks and incentives given to “big
oil” are an egregious example of how Washington insiders have got
their priorities backwards. Taxpayers shouldn’t bear the brunt of
breaks for special interests lining their pockets with our dollars.
We shouldn’t be giving preferred tax treatment to the biggest oil
companies in the world, who are reaping record profits while driving
the average Idahoan into the poorhouse.
Our national energy policy is backwards
and fixing it is one of my top priorities. We know we can convert forest
and agricultural waste into biofuels to help us wean our country away
from foreign oil. The government should provide tax incentives to producers
and consumers to help “jump start” these technologies, which can
create many new, good-paying jobs in rural Idaho.
But it’s not enough. The only way we’re
going to meet our energy needs, realistically address global warming
and strengthen our national security is to look at every available source
of renewable energy, including financial incentives to make the production
of alternative energy more cost-effective.
Idaho’s families are taking a $3.50-per-gallon
beating at the pump from “Big Oil” and a federal government that
isn’t doing anything about the real concerns of the middle class.
It’s making the basics – getting to work, paying for groceries –
difficult for everyone. There’s been so much talk and so little action
that people are angry.
I’m angry, too. One of a congressman’s biggest responsibilities is to make sure things are fair. We send folks to Washington with the hope that they won’t forget the people who sent them there, and the hope that some good will come back to us from the government we pay for.
Unfortunately, too many people get back there and forget the folks back home. Take gas prices as one outrageous example. Oil companies are raking in record profits, OPEC and countries in the Middle East are getting rich off the protection offered by our soldiers, and Idahoans are back home unable to afford the outrageous prices.
What we need is a little fairness. We
must end special tax subsidies for oil companies. Period. We must also
take a tougher stance with OPEC, and hold them to the standards set
by U.S. anti-trust laws. We must also pass aggressive and strict measures
to reduce price gouging at the pump.
Over three decades I’ve watched Idaho
become a very popular place. Growth has been an effective fuel for our
economy, has provided much-needed jobs in many areas and gave us a whole
lot of new residents. However, growth has dirtied our air, threatened
our water, strained our already-outdated transportation infrastructure
and restricted access to public lands.
We need leadership in Washington, D.C.
that will fight to find ways to provide jobs, fix our roads, clean up
our air, protect our water and keep our public lands accessible. Unfortunately,
Bill Sali has done almost nothing to help Idaho either manage or deal
with the consequences of rapid growth.
As a congressman, I will reach out to
and work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure
Idaho gets its fair share of federal funds for clean-air initiatives,
highways, airports, schools and universities to help local citizens
and communities get the resources they need to deal with growth. And
I will fight to make sure it is local citizens and local government
who get to decide how these funds are spent.
At age nine months, my son Dixon was diagnosed
with a life-threatening congenital heart defect. He received excellent
care locally followed by 13 hours of surgery in Chicago. After six months,
he was discharged – and we had a $600,000 medical bill. Thankfully,
my company’s health insurance covered almost all the bills. But what
if we had been among the many Idahoans who can’t afford health insurance?
Every American should know that their
illnesses or injuries will be treated without debt or bankruptcy. That’s
one reason my company maintained drastically reduced deductible and
reasonable co-payment costs for all of our employees. We wanted to make
sure everyone – even cashiers and janitors –had reasonable and affordable
It’s an approach we need in Idaho and
in the nation. Insurance and care must be more affordable for everyone,
not just people who make a lot. We must lower costs for everyone and
we must offer affordable insurance to every American, and make it easy
for them to sign up, find a doctor and get the care they need. I also
believe it’s critical that if we’re going to be fiscally responsible
we must involve the existing groups of private industry providers and
payers, and increase competition to lower cost and help pay for the
As a U.S. Army veteran, I know that leaving
our troops bogged down in the middle of a civil war isn’t solving
anything, and it’s keeping us from taking the fight to terrorists
elsewhere in the world.
We must force the Iraqis to take charge
their own political future and of their country’s security. This also
will take engaging the international community and aggressively pursuing
new diplomatic solutions while gradually but clearly executing a plan
to bring our troops home.
This war has created an entire generation
that will spend decades dealing with the aftereffects of almost 30,000
dead and wounded American soldiers.
It’s also costing us $200 million per
day – all while we’re shortchanging our country’s veterans’
program. Our nation’s returning heroes and their families must see
us fulfill every medical and educational promise our country made to
This is one of Washington’s worst failures.
It’s time to begin a staged turnover of security responsibility to the Iraqi government.
Idaho needs a Congressman who treats people with decency and respect. We need someone in Washington who will take action, not talk and talk and talk while quietly voting for giveaways to oil companies and military contractors. We need someone in Washington who understands that the best way we can jump-start the economy is by modifying the tax breaks given to the wealthiest Americans to help ease the tax burden on middle-class, working Americans. We have to balance the budget, but not on the backs of hard working families who are worried about their retirement and struggling to pay their bills.Congress has for two years ignored broad bipartisan support for continued tax relief for middle class families faced with paying the Alternative Minimum Tax. Their decision to put that off until the final moments of the last session before an election is one of the worst examples of the failed system in Washington.
I am proud of my service to my country.
My time in the Army was among the most important and formative of my
life. It was a chance to develop leadership skills and meet decent,
effective people who have remained lifelong friends. But most of all,
it was a chance to serve.
Veterans all share a profound love for
our country and a personal commitment to service. Veterans don’t expect
any special recognition for that service, but they are good people who
sacrificed for this country. They were promised something for their
service, and as a congressman I will fight to make sure those promises
Yes, we must provide to veterans every
benefit they were guaranteed when they enlisted. Whether it’s health
care, mental health services or educational opportunities, no veteran
should ever feel as though this country isn’t living up to its promises.
And yes, we need a new approach to the
G.I. Bill. We must expand college and technical training opportunities
for veterans to help them trade up on their experience and maturity
to find high-paying jobs in the new economy.
But we must do more. It’s not just
about honoring promises. It’s about helping families who are struggling
to cope with the loss of a husband, wife, son or daughter who was killed
in action. It’s about helping parents who are wondering how to care
with a son disabled in Iraq. It’s about coming together as a community
to help a young mother take care of the family farm while her husband
is serving his country.
This is not just about what we have promised our veterans, but what we can do for our veterans. Our debt to them goes beyond a contract or a set of enlistment papers. Our debt to them cannot be measured, but we can repay it by never forgetting and by always being there when it counts.
I’m a voter. It’s a habit, a privilege,
a right not to be ignored. I take it seriously and make a point of being
informed when I go into the voting both.
In short, I’m a lot like you. But like
you I worry about making sure my vote counts. When you go into the booth
and press a computer screen, you want to make sure that computer tallied
your vote properly. That’s why I support measures to make sure there
is a verifiable paper trail in every local precinct in Idaho. Our right
to vote is only a right if we are sure our votes count.
Check out all Walt's photos on Flickr.