Candidate Conversations 2018: Tommy Ahlquist

May 8, 2018

Republican Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist speaks during a debate at the studios of Idaho Public Television in Boise, Idaho, Monday, April 23, 2018.
Credit Otto Kitsinger / AP

This week, we’re sitting down with the candidates vying to become Idaho’s next Governor. Today, we hear from GOP hopeful Tommy Ahlquist.

He’s a developer and former emergency room doctor. He sits on several boards, including at Boise State, The United Way of Treasure Valley and the American Heart Association. He’s married with four children.

As governor, what would you do to provide health insurance coverage to the estimated 62,000 Idahoans who don't qualify for Medicaid or Affordable Care Act subsidies?

Ahlquist says he wants to fix the gap. He says he wants to reform Medicaid by putting in personal accountability and stretching the dollars further. He says the state needs Medicaid because it’s the bottom of the safety net. He also says Idaho needs insurance reform. He says that’s also a place for more personal accountability and he wants patients to be able to make more choices when it comes to insurance.

He also says Idaho has a system that pays for high-risk patients' health care. He says that system should make sure patients are taken care of after a crisis so they don’t end up back in the Emergency Room or ICU or having complications. And he wants to develop a tool where you can enter your zip code and find out how much any test or procedure costs at each health facility, so patients can chose where and how much they spend on health care. He says then the free market will lower prices.

Idaho ranks 40th in the nation for its low high school graduation rates. How would you tackle that problem when Idaho is already projected to have a shortage of skilled workers over the next few years?

Ahlquist says he wants to get as much money to teachers as he can. And he wants to cut regulations for teachers. And he wants vocational education in high schools. He says that’s not just two-and-four year degrees, but also the trades and technical skills. He says it’s been done in parts of the state and he wants to scale that up around Idaho.

Idaho has a rich, Western heritage that's treasured in its rural areas, but urban centers are quickly growing. What would you do to preserve Idaho's traditions while also embracing its identity as the fastest-growing state in the country?

Ahlquist says it’s a tale of two states. He says there’s the great state of Ada County and the rest of the state. But he says most cities are rural. He says a lot of policy and funding formulas are urban-center-centric that we forget they don’t work in rural Idaho. He says flip that and ask, "Does that work in rural Idaho?" and then it will work in the cities. He wants to look at tax policy and investment in infrastructure and add smart growth in urban areas.

Ahlquist is one of seven Republicans vying for his party's nomination for governor.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio