Smaller Regs, Bigger Government
The Madison Liberty Institute on
Governor Little’s State Address
Last year, in his first State-of-the-State address, Idaho Governor, Brad Little, was disappointing. He tossed out one or two conservative nuggets but mostly delivered a big-government banquet that would please any progressive or socialist. It was disappointing from freedom, liberty, and Constitution perspectives, but it was especially disheartening from a family, faith, and social values point of view. This year, unfortunately, he was not much better.
Let’s start with the good news. The Governor touted his record on Idaho’s regulatory reset. Because the legislature refused to pass the annual administrative rules bill, about 8,000 pages of rules and regulations expired. Senate leadership wanted all the regulations to remain, but the House and the Governor deserve credit for throwing out the many onerous and outdated regulations. The Governor should be cheered for directing Idaho’s agencies to revise and reduce the reintroduction of the regulations for the coming year. It is a conservative, pro-business, pro-household policy.
From there on, however, the State of the State address drifted toward a progressive agenda.
Governor Little, instead of keeping a past promise about repealing the tax on groceries, proposed increasing the grocery tax credit. While this sounds nice in principle (lower income taxes per person), it is a clunky, unfair tax policy, and it makes it almost impossible to eventually free Idahoans from grocery taxes altogether.
Similar to his 2019 address, he proposed bigger government in education, healthcare, corrections, infrastructure, land management, and a variety of other areas. He is a tax and spend governor who sees a problem and, instead of freeing markets and individuals to find solutions, he proposes a new program, position, or budget line to fix it.
In education, for example, Governor Little is supremely proud of his literacy initiative which began three years ago at $5 million and has since bloomed to $26 million in the budget. The Governor hints at new programs before kindergarten despite the legislature regularly rejecting pre-k proposals of the past. The truth is, if Idaho wants real improvement, it needs to re-think its education approach. There is little doubt a broad policy of school choice and freedom in education will achieve better results while preserving Idaho’s Constitutional mandate toward public education.
In higher education, the Governor applauded the State Board of Education for its tuition freeze; we join him. But, he missed an opportunity too. He should have reminded our colleges and universities about their missions as institutions of higher education rather than following the national trend of being indoctrination centers for turning out social justice warriors. Idaho taxpayers should not be paying for radicals who teach our kids misguided social values or even to hate America… and Idaho.
On healthcare, the Governor proposes to fully enact Medicaid expansion without affecting the state budget. He promises to use offsets in other agency budgets, the courts, savings from the Catastrophic Health Care Fund, and from the counties to pay for the increased enrollments. It is an optimistic promise, but we must be vigilant to see if the budget does, in fact, stay constant rather than be indirectly increased in other healthcare areas. Shell games are common from Idaho’s leadership. Counties and taxpayers should be especially wary of the state wanting to take away their healthcare savings, when Medicaid expansion promised them those savings to begin with. As this moves forward, taxpayers should watch their wallets for sure.
Throughout his address, the Governor discussed other issues such as the opioid addiction epidemic, infrastructure development, land management, and INL research. In all of those cases, he proposed budget increases, expanded agencies, and/or additional positions to “work with” our federal partners. These are not conservative approaches. We encourage the Governor and the legislature to explore market and freedom approaches to these problems rather than merely adding more dollars and more government at every turn.
True federalism means Idaho is not a subsidiary of the federal government, but is free to work out its own issues rather than the federal government’s top-down approaches. Is Idaho not an independent state of rugged individualists?
Sadly, once again Governor Little displayed a complete disregard for important issues regarding families, faith, and social values. He cited the Idaho Constitution on education matters, but disregarded Article 3, Section 24 stating, “the first concern of all good government is the virtue and sobriety of the people, and the purity of the home.”
He failed to mention or contemplate his role as a defender of Idahoans’ Constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property. He paid no attention to protecting our individual rights regarding family decisions and religious freedom. And, despite proposals to reduce abortion, and a movement to abolish abortions in Idaho altogether, the Governor missed out on an opportunity to be a leader for ending 1,500 or so abortions suffered in Idaho each year.
Unfortunately, we must petition the governor exactly the same as we did last year…
The Madison Liberty Institute applauds Governor Little for his minor conservative flashes but encourages more steps to free individuals, families, and businesses from the constraints of our burdensome government. Most importantly, the Madison Liberty Institute implores the Governor to turn more attention toward protecting Idaho families in their noble efforts to raise strong, independent children. Our schools should be free from insidious influences of the far-left, anti-family agenda. Our churches and churchgoers should be free from the constant attacks from anti-religion, God-hating groups who aren’t tolerant of others’ beliefs.
There is important work to do in order to keep our first freedoms, our families, and our faith secure. Hopefully, the Governor will prove a worthy steward and guardian of all Idahoans’ sacred rights and liberties. The Madison Liberty Institute will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Governor in such efforts.
Ronald M. Nate, an economics professor, holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Connecticut, serves as a Senior Fellow at The Madison Liberty Institute, and is a former state
representative for Legislative District 34A.
The Madison Liberty Institute (MLI) is an independent research and educational organization whose mission is to promote the founding principles of the American republic, free-market solutions, and “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Our vision is for a freer, more prosperous future — one where our neighbors and future leaders understand and champion the virtues and institutions that create a more harmonious society and protect our rights to life, liberty, property, conscience, and the pursuit of happiness. | www.madisonliberty.org
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