Republican gubernatorial candidates say they’re concerned about Idaho’s reliance on federal money, but they offer differing approaches for tackling the issue. Idaho’s state government receives $2.7 billion in aid from Washington, D.C., more than double what it was 15 years ago. In recent years, Gov. Butch Otter and the Legislature have implemented procedures to better track the federal grants that the state receives, but little has been done to reduce the state’s reliance on the U.S. government for support of programs that range from education to criminal justice to healthcare.
Lt. Gov. Brad Little, businessman Tommy Ahlquist and U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador all say the state should be less reliant on aid from Washington, D.C. Little and Labrador specifically note that the national debt just crossed $20 trillion.
“They are broke,” Little said of the federal government. “Deficit spending cannot occur indefinitely.”
“Clearly, the federal government is broke,” Labrador said. “The funding Idaho and other states receive from the feds is not sustainable and this reality will come home to roost sooner than later.”
Ahlquist said, “Yes, we need to be very careful about not becoming reliant on the federal government.”
Though each acknowledges a problem, the candidates differ in their approach to dealing with dependency on D.C. Little said, “As governor, I would be very wary of new programs started by the federal government which could turn into future obligations for the state.”
Ahlquist also said he would examine federal grants through the lens of the proper role of government and wastefulness, favoring state solutions over those presented by the federal government.
“In most cases when it is the proper role of government, it will be Idaho who should be in the lead, and we should always fight to take state primacy,” Ahlquist said.
Labrador offered a more aggressive approach. He asserted, “As governor, I will carefully scrutinize the federal funding we are already getting so that we reduce our reliance on the federal government. Gov. Otter has done a good job putting in place an inventory of all federal grants. But more must occur. The next step is to eliminate federal grants that are not needed or do not reflect our state's values and priorities. We must also avoid accepting new federal dollars that either increase our state's reliance on Washington, D.C., or put the national government in charge of our programs and the delivery of services.”
Different from Labrador, Little and Ahlquist said though they’re concerned about federal dependency, they want to be sure taxes paid to the federal government make their way back here.
“Idahoans pay a lot of federal taxes. That’s our money. The biggest problem with these federal dollars is they come with strings attached—pushing the limits of our 10th Amendment,” said Little. “I will work with other states and our congressional delegation to ask the feds to give more of our money back, without strings attached, because Idaho is more efficient with tax dollars and many of these programs can be discontinued.”
Ahlquist agrees, stating, “Idahoans do pay, however, their fair share of federal taxes, and we should make sure that Idaho gets its appropriate share of federal tax dollars back into Idaho. More importantly, we should make sure that those federal dollars are being spent wisely by our politicians who represent us in D.C., and Boise and hold them accountable for it.”