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House Bill 734 – Colleges and Universities, Appropriations FY25

House Bill 734 – Colleges and Universities, Appropriations FY25

Niklas Kleinworth
March 24, 2024

The Idaho Spending Index serves to provide a fiscally conservative perspective on state budgeting while providing an unbiased measurement of how Idaho lawmakers apply these values to their voting behavior on appropriations bills. Each bill is analyzed within the context of the metrics below. They receive one (+1) point for each metric that is satisfied by freedom-focused policymaking and lose one (-1) point for each instance in which the inverse is true. The sum of these points composes the score for the bill.

Analyst: Niklas Kleinworth

Rating: -2

Bill Description: House Bill 734 appropriates $700,004,700 and 4,944.21 full-time positions to Idaho’s Colleges and Universities for fiscal year 2025.

This legislation contains appropriations for Idaho’s four, four-year higher education institutions: the University of Idaho, Boise State University, Idaho State University, and Lewis & Clark State College.

Does this budget enact powers and activities that extend beyond the proper role of government? Conversely, does this budget fulfill the proper role of government?

A key issue in Idaho’s colleges and universities is their wasteful spending on social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Researchers at the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s Center for American Education determined that there are approximately 75 such positions costing more than $5.9 million in salaries and benefits across Idaho’s four higher-education institutions. Moneys for colleges and universities — both appropriated and unappropriated by the legislature — are public funds that should not be used to indoctrinate the workforce. 

Section 3 of this legislation provides intent language that notes appropriated funds “shall not be utilized to support diversity, equity, inclusion, or social justice ideology.” This language has been included in the colleges and universities’ budget since the 2022 fiscal year. Since then, Idaho’s institutions have expanded their DEI programs in defiance of these legislative requirements. They even claim that no appropriated funds are being used for DEI.

This year’s report on DEI spending and activities, which is legally required, was not presented to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee before this budget was set. The report has since been made publicly available, but it provided no substantive information or an accurate accounting of social justice activities at these institutions. Thus, we see these institutions have run afoul of this intent language, voiding its purpose of safeguarding taxpayer dollars.

House Bill 734, by its lack of a line item reduction and strong intent language, permits taxpayer funding for all these social justice and DEI positions at institutional offices, including gender equity centers, women’s centers, LGBTQ offices, cultural centers, and offices of equity and inclusion. These centers only further Marxist identity warfare that hinders the development of Idaho’s workforce. This is a wasteful use of public funds and is counterproductive to the very purpose of sustaining colleges and universities.


Does this budget incur any wasteful spending among discretionary funds, including new line items? Conversely, does this budget contain any provisions that serve to reduce spending where possible (i.e. base reductions, debt reconciliation, etc.)? 

This legislation appropriates additional funds through the occupational capacity enhancement to the University of Idaho. Just over $1.3 million of these funds will support new health care education programs, including nursing and physician’s assistant training.

These programs duplicate other investments the state has made at Idaho State University and Lewis and Clark State College. These other institutions note they still have capacity for additional students in their programs under their current level of state support. Though there is a shortage of health care workers in our state, growing spending to fund new nursing and PA programs at the University of Idaho is duplicative and premature.

In an attempt to prevent duplicative spending, Section 4 of this legislation provides intent language to help mitigate this issue, but it won’t solve the problem. The language reads: 

“state-appropriated funds …  shall not be utilized to support undergraduate nursing or physician assistant programs that are provided by other colleges, universities, and community colleges that receive state appropriated funds.”

Though this language is a noble attempt to prevent wasteful duplicative spending, its current form could be misinterpreted to mean that funds at the University of Idaho cannot be used to support those specific programs, rather than similar or duplicative programs. Thus, this language will not prevent this wasteful spending.


Is the maintenance budget inappropriate for the needs of the state, the size of the agency, or the inflationary environment of the economy? Conversely, is the maintenance budget appropriate given the needs of the state and economic pressures?

This legislation confirms the maintenance budget for colleges and universities of $684,112,400, growing it from the base by 16.9% over the last three years. This rate is lower than what would be prescribed by inflationary pressures over the same period.


Does the budget grow government through the addition of new permanent FTPs or through funding unlegislated efforts to create new or expanded entitlement programs? Conversely, does this budget reduce the size of government staff and programs except where compelled by new legislation?

House Bill 734 provides an appropriation of $6,995,400 to Idaho’s four institutions of higher education to expand their capacity and programs. This line item would add an additional 29.25 full-time positions statewide. This is a clear expansion of government that is made unnecessary by a steady  decline of undergraduate enrollment in recent years.


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