Gov. Little’s Special Session Gambit Surrenders Public Authority and Usurps Legislative Power
Reclaim Idaho, not new circumstances, are dictating the timing and nature of the special session. Legislators should either not show up or vote Gov. Little’s proposal down.
Gov. Brad Little has called Idaho’s legislature into special session. The pretext for the session is Idaho’s extraordinary budget surplus of over $2 billion. Gov. Little, however, has framed the session as an up-or-down vote on his proposal combining modest tax cuts, one-time tax rebates, and $410 million in new education spending. The legislature is not being called into session to deliberate and compromise as they develop a plan of their own. Gov. Little insists that his proposal either be accepted or rejected as a whole. He has done the deliberating and compromising for them.
Some of Gov. Little’s measures have some merit. Yet there is no reason for the legislature to acquiesce in his plans. The people’s representatives are tasked with deciding which taxes should be cut, how much, and when. The people’s representatives should be determining spending priorities. Instead, the governor is trying to dictate policy to the legislature without the give-and-take of legislative deliberation.
Reclaim Idaho is governing the timing and nature of this special session. Nothing much has changed since the legislature left town in May. The surplus was huge then. Gov. Little had just showered the education system with a $300 million increase in spending. The only thing that has changed is that Reclaim Idaho’s initiative has gotten on the ballot.
As many others have argued, since he doesn’t want to fight the initiative, Gov. Little seems to think that a quick surrender to Reclaim Idaho’s education spending binge is the best way to make sure that the initiative does not lead to even more irresponsible tax increases and spending. Gov. Little recommends a Special Session to bribe the populace right before an election with immediate tax rebates ($500 from Gov. Brad Little right before the election!).
Moreover, Gov. Little is calling the old legislature—the one who faced primary elections in May with the old district lines—to vote on his proposal. Several of these House members and senators have their bids to be Republican nominees for the general election. More than half of the House members will be new in 2023. But now these failed candidates hold the state’s fiscal policy in their hands. Sen. Jeff Agenbroad, rejected by Republicans in Nampa, will be making the decision about the governor’s proposal. So will Sen. Jim Woodard, Rep. Paul Amador, Rep. Greg Cheney, and others. Gov. Little would rather convene rejected, compliant legislators than face a new, more conservative Republican legislature in 2023. Why are the rejects making the call?
Little has already, apparently, gathered enough support to pass his proposal. A legislature interested in preserving its prerogatives, however, would not participate in this charade of a law-making process. Legislators could refuse to show up and prevent a quorum so that the legislature could not do its business. Legislators could also vote Gov. Little’s gambit down.
Either way, nothing pressing demands that the legislature take action on these matters now. Allowing the new legislature to act and formulate its own plans is a more sensible course. They can cut taxes in a couple of months. They can redirect spending in a couple months. They will be held accountable for what this old legislature does.
And the Republican Party can organize to defeat Reclaim Idaho’s measure in November. It would be good to refamiliarize themselves with their principles.