Ronald Nate: Governor Little Is Seeing a Lot of Nails

Op-Ed by Ronald Nate, Ph.D., President, Idaho Freedom Foundation

When I was a very young kid, my dad gave me a hammer to pound some nails into a 2×4 while he was doing the real work of building a new shed. I pounded a few nails, but then I wanted to see what else that hammer could do. Yup, everything became a “nail” for my new hammer to pound. Rocks, glass, sticks, M&Ms — you name it, they got pounded.

Watching Governor Little’s 2024 State of the State address for Idaho immediately brought to mind my kid-with-a-hammer experience. Everything in Idaho looks like a nail to be pounded by Little’s big-spending hammer. Here’s a sampling:


  • $2 billion over 10 years for public school building and repairs. The governor also refers to this as property tax relief because school districts won’t need to bond as much. It’s truly bizarre to say spending $2 billion is also tax relief of $2 billion!
  • $200 million for transportation repairs, plus $50 million to secure bonding for $800 million more. This plan will indebt Idahoans for the next 25 years.
  • $75 million continuation for Idaho Launch. The governor admits Idaho Launch is needed because higher education funding and support have attracted too many students away from in-demand jobs and career choices. This is typical liberal policymaking fixing government-caused problems with more government.
  • $36.5 million for water projects, maintenance, and more quagga mussel containment. This comes after $1 billion-plus in water programs for the last four years. Will it ever end?
  • An extra $20 million in Covid funding going to state parks. This is in addition to the ongoing $171 million appropriated last fiscal year for these very same projects.

Other “nails” include:

  • Increases in public safety spending (fentanyl policy, border security), recreation, doctor residencies, mental health facilities, and more.
  • The tax relief he addresses includes a lot of one-time rebates, while much of his spending increases are ongoing and/or are shifts from other taxes (i.e. lower property taxes by using sales tax dollars to fund school facilities — so not really a tax cut).



To top things off, here’s how the governor rounds out the discussion about the budget: “In Idaho, we live within our means. We deliver tax relief while making meaningful investments, we maintain a balanced budget, and we keep responsible amounts in reserve. If Idaho can do it, Washington, D.C., SHOULD do it. The runaway freight train of federal spending has got to stop.”

What a priceless perspective to offer after giving one of the biggest tax-and-spend speeches in Idaho history. The governor has the gall to complain about how the federal government operates on a debt basis while ignoring the fact that nearly half — 43% — of Idaho’s budget comes from the federal checkbook. The governor’s latest proposal only sustains this trend. Idaho is supposed to have a balanced budget, but trying to balance it on the foundation of federal debt offends the conservative conscience.

Finally, the governor touts his plan to leave at least $250 million in surplus for both of the next two years. This is in addition to more than $24 million in new funding to pad the budget stabilization fund. He says this provides for a “structurally balanced budget” but that’s a contradiction. Any budget left in either a deficit or a surplus is NOT in balance. And it should offend every Idaho taxpayer to hear the governor imply that these overcollections of taxes should stay in the government’s bank account instead of being returned to Idaho taxpayers.

Idaho is often cited as the reddest of the red states. But by the looks of our government policy and this governor’s big spending plans as per his State of the State address, we have a long way to go before our brand of legislating and government spending matches the values of the average Idahoan. Idaho families deserve lean, efficient, non-intrusive government, but that’s not what they’re getting. The Legislature needs to remind Governor Little about the “forgotten man,” the taxpayer. Reject these big spending plans and return the money to Idaho families being crushed by Biden’s inflation economy.


Ronald M. Nate, Ph.D., is President of the Idaho Freedom Foundation 

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