Writing an article in response to another legislator is not normally my style, but a recent opinion piece by Rep. Rod Furniss was so full of errors and misconceptions, this response is required.
Let’s start with an analogy. Many of us are familiar with the story of the Trojan horse and the ancient Greeks, who attempted to conquer the city of Troy for 10 years. At last, the Greeks built a huge wooden horse and presented it to the Trojans as a gift to the goddess Athena. The supposed peace offering was pulled inside the city walls. That night, Greek warriors crept out of the horse structure and opened the gates for their fellow soldiers to join in capturing and burning the great city of Troy.
Just two months ago, Idaho accepted its own Trojan horse from the Biden administration. Idaho Senate bill S1204 welcomed Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act packed full of hidden enemies to our freedom and sovereignty. Many squishy legislators, including Furniss, bought the deception and now Idaho is at risk.
Here’s how S1204 works. Section 1 (2)a states: “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.”
Now come the dangers. We already see some ARPA appropriations are not long-range investments for our grandchildren, including S1212 (vaccine administration), H373 ($2.3 million Idaho Commission for Libraries) and H399 ($2.8 million Commission on Aging).
Equally unsettling is the fact we do not know what “strings” will be attached to accepting these funds. What could possibly go wrong? Does accepting ARPA mean new requirements will be demanded concerning our Second Amendment rights? Will we be required to accept thousands of undocumented immigrants pouring over our border, perhaps some of them housed in our homes? What about requiring critical race theory put into practice for our preschool through high school-age children?
My fellow representative, Rod Furniss, explained his misguided yes vote this way: “We would rather not have (ARPA) ... whether we take it or not our children and grandchildren have to pay it back.”
That’s how he finally succumbed to the lie and voted for the money. Maybe this is a convenient argument for some, but Idaho does not need the money, nor the accompanying unknown strings. Furniss consistently makes errors of foul principles and made-up facts. He falsely claims I and many other conservative legislators followed the “mandate of the Idaho Freedom Foundation” in opposing House Joint Resolution 4, which would have incorporated the federal drug schedules into our Idaho Constitution. This bill would have set an alarming precedent and would make it extremely difficult for new, potentially helpful drugs to be used for Idahoans without even more bureaucracy involved. Last time I checked, marijuana is still illegal in Idaho, and we can always pass stronger legislation to keep marijuana illegal in Idaho. HJR4 would have haphazardly damaged our state Constitution.
Here’s another Furniss gem, “One thousand people a day are moving to Idaho.”
Not by a long shot. That number would equate to 365,000 new people this year. According to the Joint Legislative Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee, it’s closer to a yearly projected rate of 34,000. Numerical mistakes happen but rarely is a legislator off by a factor of 10 in formulating his own ideas for economic policy.
Furniss is also wrong on tax cuts. The legislature passed a lackluster property tax relief bill, paired with a good income tax reduction for corporations and individuals (from 6.95% to 6.5%), but it did not include a reduction of sales tax to 5.5% as Furniss falsely claims. Let’s finish up with a few more Furniss blunders.
He is flat wrong when he says the Idaho Freedom Foundation rates “all bills” and scores “all” ARPA appropriation bills. He states “the (IFF) rejects all budgets that are backfilled with ARPA money and most other budgets,” and “voting no gets a high IFF score but doesn’t solve problems.”
But voting no did work for solving higher education problems in 2021 (see bill S1179 — even Furniss voted no). The bill died in the House and the second try at the budget (H387) came back smaller, cutting $2.5 million from social justice funding and providing a solution for some of the concerns over critical race theory funding in higher education.
Medicaid expansion is skyrocketing out of control, just as many of us warned it would, but Furniss supported the $3.7 billion Medicaid budget, an increase of 19.8% over last year, and a $370 million Medicaid supplemental bill (the biggest in Idaho history).
Furniss praises the Senate for its “common sense,” but several bills passing the House with veto-proof margins didn’t even get a committee hearing in the Senate, including the mask mandate prohibition bill (H339), approval for investing state funds in gold/silver (H7) and voiding the governor’s 50-person gathering limit (HCR5).
It is essential we pay attention to the voting records of our elected officials, as we will have important legislative and gubernatorial primary races in 2022 whose outcomes will determine the direction of Idaho.
Does Idaho need more strings? More Trojan horses filled with liberty-destroying mandates and deceptions? More unprincipled, mistake-prone legislators?