Congressional candidate Dan Williams called a press conference Tuesday to highlight his support for programs for young families, and threw in an announcement that he and his wife are expecting a baby.
“My wife Emily and I have found out that we’re gong to be parents in May or June,” said Williams, 34. He said the news reinforced for him the need to focus on ways the government can provide opportunities for young families.
“That is the role of government as I see it - not to take care of people, but to create opportunities for people to take care of themselves,” Williams said.
He promised to fight for more funding for Head Start, for local schools and for anti-domestic violence programs, and criticized his opponent, incumbent Rep. Helen Chenoweth, for voting against a child-support enforcement bill and a minimum wage increase.
Chenoweth was one of five House members to vote against a bill that would penalize parents who don’t pay child support by suspending their driver’s, professional or recreational licenses. But Chenoweth’s campaign spokeswoman, Khris Bershers, said Tuesday that the vote doesn’t mean Chenoweth doesn’t like the idea.
“She thinks it’s a great idea, but doesn’t think it should be a federal mandate,” Bershers said.
Chenoweth supports Idaho’s state law that does the same thing, she said.
Chenoweth opposed increasing the minimum wage because “federally mandating the wage which businesses are forced to pay workers would result in workers losing their jobs. Four out of five would get a raise, the fifth would be fired,” Bershers said.
The minimum-wage increase passed Congress and was signed into law; its first phase already has taken effect.
Williams said he believes the minimum wage should keep pace with inflation.
Chenoweth supports eliminating the federal Department of Education, and dismisses Williams’ criticism of her stance. “We can give more money to states if we’re not paying as many bureaucrats to come up with the strings,” Bershers said.
Bershers said the same logic is behind Chenoweth’s opposition to increasing funding for Head Start. “Funding for Head Start has increased 186 percent over the past six years, while enrollment has increased only 39 percent,” she said. With cuts in administration, “I don’t think you need to increase the funding to take in more students.”
Williams said only 20 percent of the children eligible for Head Start in Coeur d’Alene are being served by the program, and only 12 percent in Post Falls. “That simply is not good enough,” he said.
Amy Bistline, office manager for North Idaho’s Head Start program, said across Kootenai County, 19 percent of eligible children are in the program, and there are waiting lists to get in.
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