Tonight will be the first presidential debate this year between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
It is the first of three. In my fantasy world, the presidential candidates would be required to do a debate in each of the 50 states, focused on the particular issues that impact each state.
If one were held in Idaho, here are the questions I would ask to the presidential candidates. I include a bit of background on each question.
To Both Candidates: Both of you have spoken considerably about immigration. But, in Idaho, one aspect of immigration policy has particular saliency. That is federal immigration policy for agriculture workers, many of whom today are illegal. These illegals play a key role in the Idaho farm economy. What policies would you pursue in order in insure that Idaho’s farms, dairies, ranches and orchards have the workers they need?
Background: According to the Pew Research Center, 43% of Idaho’s workers in agriculture are illegal immigrants. Idaho’s dairy industry, the third largest in the U.S., is particularly dependent on illegals.
To Both Candidates: Both of you advocate more federal spending on infrastructure. Most of the examples cited are for potential infrastructure improvements located in major American cities and big states: airports, seaports, major highways, etc. What kinds of federal infrastructure spending will you support that will benefit small states like Idaho with lots of rural territory?
Background: Idaho’s roads and bridges both are in need of substantial investments with an annual shortfall estimated at $543 million a year. Roughly 54% of Idaho’s highway funding comes from the federal government. A 2014 Pew study determined that Idaho is one of the most dependent states on federal funding for transportation.
To Donald Trump: You have campaigned vigorously on the idea that NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, should be renegotiated. Idaho has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the treaty. How can you ensure that Idaho’s economy won’t be hurt by renegotiation?
Background: Idaho’s trade with Canada and Mexico has grown by more than 800% since the passage of NAFTA in 1994. Idaho’s largest trading partner is Canada and Idaho agriculture’s largest foreign market is Mexico.
To Hillary Clinton: The Air Force plays a key role in Idaho, with Mountain Home Air Force Base and Gowen Field being significant employers. What policies will you pursue on the A-10 in particular and for the Air Force in general?
Background: Gowen Field’s future is currently linked to the A-10 ground attack aircraft. The Air Force wants to phase out the aircraft while Congress has, so far, been protective. Mountain Home’s future will depend on the future force mix and the mission assigned to the facility.
To Both Candidates: Almost 64% of all land in Idaho is owned by the federal government. Both of you have indicated that you would oppose transferring such lands to the states. Would either of you support Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador’s proposal to allow states to apply to manage some portion of federal land on a temporary basis, to see if state management might be superior to federal management?
Background: Some western states, in particular Utah, are exploring litigating the issue of the federal ownership of western lands. But, that is a long-shot. Labrador suggests testing the thesis of whether states can manage federal land better than the federal government. If successful, such an approach might lead to greater state management.