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A billion here, a billion there … pretty soon we are talking real money

A billion here, a billion there … pretty soon we are talking real money

Parrish Miller
May 16, 2014

One thing that the Idaho Freedom Index doesn't include is appropriations bills. We prefer to look at those separately. For fiscal year 2015, we counted 97 appropriations bills that were signed into law. All combined, they totaled $6,694,176,800 ($6.7 billion) in appropriations. These bills ranged from as little as $10,000 for the State Treasurer Investment Advisory Board all the way up to $2,033,290,000 (that's more than $2 billion, by the way) for Medicaid.

While all 97 of these became law, some were definitely more popular than others. Senate Bill 1409, for example, which appropriated a bit more than $3.5 million to the state treasurer, passed with unanimous support—105 votes in favor. Others, such as the aforementioned $2 billion Medicaid bill and the $260,000 appropriations bill for the Hispanic Affairs Commission, received a less enthusiastic reception with each garnering 35 votes in opposition between both chambers.

All told, only nine of the 97 bills passed without a nay vote and all but one of those had at least one legislator absent. Another way to look at it is that the $3.5 million appropriations bill for the state treasurer which I mentioned earlier was the only one of all 97 bills which had 105 votes cast in its favor.

Legislators were frequently absent during votes on appropriations bills. Only 10 of the 97 bills were actually voted on by every legislator with a handful having as many as eight legislators absent between both chambers. That said, the absences were only among some legislators with 47 of them never being absent and another 25 being absent only once or twice. Twelve legislators were absent for 10 or more votes on appropriations bills.

Some legislators never met an appropriations bill they didn't like with 17 of them voting yes on every single bill. Another 14 legislators were absent on one or more occasions, but still never cast a vote against an appropriations bill.

On the flip side, a few legislators were reliable no votes with one voting no on 72 out of the 97 appropriations bills. Ten others cast at least 22 no votes with the second highest coming in at 67.

The range of total appropriation dollars voted for was from $6,694,176,800 on the high end to $855,024,900 at the other extreme. Only one legislator voted for less than a billion dollars in total appropriations and only four voted for less than $3 billion.

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