By Governor Brad Little
Our new president and the Democrat-led Congress are seeking to bail out big, poorly managed states and punish states that have operated responsibly during the pandemic – a step that would saddle Idaho children with even greater debt and suppress economic prosperity for generations to come.
Idaho won’t stand for it.
I joined 21 other governors last week in pushing back on a proposal that would reward big states on lockdown and punish states like Idaho for staying open during the pandemic.
President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill is rooted in a biased formula based on unemployment figures, not overall population. The plan rewards states experiencing “negative economic impacts.” States with the most people out of work and the most poorly performing economies receive more taxpayer dollars.
That means a quarter of a billion dollars of Idahoans’ federal taxes would subsidize states that have kept people out of work! States such as California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and others would get more than their fair share under Biden’s plan.
As the other governors and I put it, the proposal “punishes states that took a measured approach to the pandemic and entered the crisis with healthy state budgets and strong economies. A state’s ability to keep businesses open and people employed should not be a penalizing factor when distributing funds.”
Idaho has the strongest economy of all 50 states. We have the most financially solvent state budget. With a historic record budget surplus, we are poised to provide tax relief and make strategic investments in transportation, education, water, broadband, and other critical areas. We have low unemployment. We had the biggest increase in personal income compared to other states. We saw the largest increase in business formation over the past year compared to other states. And we are the least regulated state in the nation.
Idaho is a leading state for our share of vaccine doses administered. We are among only a handful of states with the fewest COVID-19 restrictions because our businesses, schools, and churches have remained open longer than almost every other state while we have managed to prevent a crisis in our hospitals. We distributed most of our federal coronavirus relief funds in direct support of Idaho citizens and businesses through tax relief and grants.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of a tragedy. The disease has already taken the lives of close to 2,000 of our fellow Idahoans and landed many more in the hospital. We have sacrificed together and endured hardship together.
So why is Idaho being asked to subsidize irresponsible states that are experiencing increased virus spread despite keeping business, schools, and churches shut down? Why should Idaho be penalized for making hard decisions to keep our economy open and kids in school? The states that did neither are being rewarded.
Why are we asked to subsidize states with unfunded pension funds, underfunded unemployment funds, and poorly managed budgets? Why should Idaho be penalized for the strength of our economy, when our citizens and communities worked hard to adapt to new challenges? Very unfair.
Any future federal relief funds should be allocated fairly to states, and I will push for those funds to directly invest in our children and grandchildren, since the burden of paying off the federal debt will be on their shoulders.
Idaho is showing the rest of the country how to responsibly get through this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic – by prioritizing the protection of both lives AND livelihoods. Idaho’s congressional delegation and I will continue to fight for what’s fair and right for Idaho