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Legislative leaders discuss state’s role in adding to unemployment

Asked about the state's contribution to unemployment through the 2,800 state jobs eliminated since 2006, legislative leaders had a variety of responses. House Speaker Lawerence Denney said, "I just have to just add one thing. It takes 11 private-sector jobs to provide the funds for one public sector job, so I think that's a distinction that we need to make. Yes we are contributing to the unemployment by downsizing government, but on the other hand we're actually increasing the amount of revenue we have available."

House Minority Leader John Rusche, a physician, said, "A lot of what the state does is not hire employees, it's purchase services in the private sector, particularly in the health care world. It's not just the 2800 state employees. It's the health care providers, it's the educational providers, it's people who own gravel pits, it's all of those things that end up having less jobs, and we do what we have to do, but I just think that we have to be conscious." Rusche noted that if the state's Medicaid program is cut by $150 million, the impact is tripled by the lost federal matching funds when state funding is eliminated. "So that's $450 million, $500 million less a year into the health care industry," he said. "Any idea how many jobs that is? It's a lot. It's about 4,000 or 5,000."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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