A top elected official in Boise has announced one of the most left-of-center agendas we’ve seen at the state Capitol. Among other things, this politician wants:
- More than $100 million to add thousands of people to the Medicaid rolls and make thousands more eligible for, and dependent on, Obamacare insurance subsidies.
- Taxpayer funding for residency positions at private medical facilities in Idaho.
- A 71-percent increase in spending to coax kids into college, even though Idaho’s higher education system is as likely to produce college debtors as it is college graduates.
- A special scholarship program intended to get college dropouts to return to college, funded by taxpayers.
- $4 million to add professional development days for teachers, instead of adding money to the classroom.
- To create a new workforce development agency within the office of the governor, complete with $8.5 million and five new employees to run it.
- More taxpayer funds to pay for a pharmaceutical company’s clinical trials on a chemical version of a product already available—at a fraction of the cost—in states with legal CBD oil.
- Special tax credits for parents with kids and special tax breaks for chosen technology businesses.
- $3.4 million for a new government-owned airplane.
- Two months of free health insurance for state employees, and 3 percent more for state employee payrolls.
- Earlier retirement benefits for direct care staff at the Department of Juvenile Corrections.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s limited space to write all the details, but in total, this Big Government agenda would grow the state budget by 9.2 percent and would add nearly 500 new state government employee positions. It spends down the state’s projected budget surplus, leaving little money for tax relief.
Now, you might think that this Big Government proposal comes from Rep. Mat Erpelding, a liberal Boise Democrat and the leader of his party in the House of Representatives. But, actually, the proposal comes from C.L. “Butch” Otter, the Republican governor of the state of Idaho, a formerly self-described libertarian.
For the last several years, people have wondered aloud, what’s going on with Butch? Is old age catching up with him? Is he senile? Is his staff directing the affairs of state while the boss is away?
Otter, in his final State of the State address, answered that question once and for all. The governor told House and Senate members: “With the benefit of experience earned through the patience and confidence of Idaho voters, today I have a more nuanced view of the proper role of government. I have always understood its limitations and its flaws. But now I also know its possibilities, when responsibly led, for helping individual citizens realize their full potential. None of us can afford to dismiss the latter because we are hamstrung by the former.”
Otter and I share a common mentor, Ralph Smeed, a giant in Idaho politics, a true champion of liberty, who as of this moment is spinning in his grave over what Otter has become. Otter is not the same guy who, along with Reps. Maurice Clements and Lee Baron, fought Big Government in the Legislature in the 1970s. He now is Big Government.
Furthermore, if the leaders in the Idaho Legislature—namely House Speaker Scott Bedke, Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill and, by extension, Lt. Gov. Brad Little—do nothing to stop Otter’s liberal agenda, it will say as much about their political leanings as it does that of the governor. The right thing, at this point, is to view Otter’s policies no differently than that of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, or Chuck Schumer. It’s up to all of us who believe in freedom and conservative principles to stop the governor.