Nampa Sen. Agenbroad's Pro-Big Government Record
Idaho State Senator Jeff Agenbroad’s (R - Nampa) recent attack on the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s policy and appropriation bill reviews doesn’t reflect any change in our scores or tactics, but rather his problematic voting record.
When Agenbroad started in the Legislature in 2017, Idaho’s all-funds budget appropriation was $7.9 billion for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18). For FY23, the appropriations that Agenbroad voted for total $12.9 billion. That’s a 63.3% increase in 5 years.
He claims he isn’t a spendthrift, which would be credible if he voted against budget bills. But Agenbroad rarely votes against budget bills. He has served on the Joint Finance and Appropriation Committee (JFAC) since his first day in office. JFAC developed the budgets that he voted for. So unless a 10.3% compounded annual spending increase for the last five years is fiscally conservative, it would seem that IFF’s criticism of Agenbroad’s voting record is on point.
Medicaid serves as one of the big drivers of spending growth. Agenbroad voted for the FY18 appropriation of $2.285 billion and for the FY23 appropriation of $4.045 billion, a 77% increase in five years and a staggering compounded annual increase of 12.1%. He voted for every Medicaid budget increase each year.
Perhaps one of the reasons that Agenbroad says he detected a change in “IFF’s behavior” three years ago is because in 2019 we started our Spending Index as another measurement tool. Whereas the Freedom Index reviews bills regarding regulation and policy, the Spending Index only measures appropriation bills, a critical component of Agenbroad’s record as a member of JFAC that he now co-chairs.
For the 2019 session, Agenbroad’s Spending Index score of 7.1% tied for the lowest in the Senate. It improved slightly to 8.7% in 2020, putting him right next to Senate Democrat Minority Leader Michelle Stennett’s 8%. For 2021, Agenbroad tied for last again. The senator’s dismal 4.5% in 2022 put him ahead of only one Senate Democrat.
In short, he votes for nearly every budget no matter how large, including ones that any conservative Republican might find objectionable.It's fair to say Agenbroad’s budget votes are indistinguishable from those cast by Senate Democrats.
This matters because Idaho could remove the sales tax on groceries and offer broad property tax relief with more restrained spending growth. We could go beyond slightly reducing the top income tax rate, the only major tax relief this year.
In 2021, Agenbroad voted for Senate Bill 1204, the bill that accepted federal American Rescue Plan Act money. It says, “ARPA funds are borrowed from our grandchildren. To the extent allowable under law, the state should make long-range investments with ARPA funds that will benefit our grandchildren.”
Notwithstanding the language Agenbroad voted for with this bill, he voted in the 2022 session to use ARPA funds for bonuses with SB1404 and for arts grants with SB1391. Borrowing money from our grandchildren to fund bonuses and arts projects hardly sounds like long-range investments. And it’s certainly not conservative.
Until IFF started reviewing the records of legislators vote by vote, politicians like Agenbroad could make any claims they wanted because they defined themselves on the campaign trail.
Agenbroad believes IFF, in disclosing his voting record, is bullying him simply because he doesn’t want his constituents to know the details of the thousands of votes he has cast.
Unfortunately for him, the votes are cast, his record is open for review, and he can no longer cover his tracks, thanks to IFF and its supporters.
Fred Birnbaum serves as the Legislative Affairs Director for the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Budget bills referenced in his piece can be reviewed at IdahoSpendingIndex.com.