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As U.S. debt rises, Washington, D.C. should look to Idaho

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Jim Risch

Despite falling COVID-19 case counts;

Despite President Biden’s assurances of bipartisan cooperation;

Despite $1,000,000,000,000.00 ($1 trillion) in unspent COVID-19 aid across the country from previous relief bills;

Democrats have passed a $1,900,000,000,000.00 ($1.9 trillion) COVID-19 spending plan through Congress without a single Republican vote. The previous five relief bills were all passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Unlike the five bipartisan COVID-19 relief bills before it, this $1.9 trillion spending plan is packed with funding for special interests and longtime liberal priorities. Early COVID-19 relief bills provided funds for testing and vaccine development, personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health care workers and grants to keep small businesses afloat. In stark contrast, this package devotes hundreds of billions of dollars to items like expanding Obamacare and tens of millions to “climate justice.”

These are not efforts that will benefit people who need help related to the impact of COVID-19.

The bill also offers $350 billion to state and local governments. That’s more than 87 times Idaho’s entire annual budget, which will predominantly be awarded to states that rang up billions in unpaid debt long before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Under Democrats’ plan, poorly-run states will receive the biggest government payouts over well-managed states like Idaho which, despite a year of extraordinary challenges, ranks first in the country for economic momentum, financial solvency, and personal income growth.

Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Little and the State Legislature, Idaho is in the strongest possible position to emerge from the pandemic in even better financial shape than we were in going into it. Remarkably, Idaho currently carries a budget surplus. The United States is $28 trillion in debt and about to add nearly $2 trillion more to that total, a 7% increase in our national debt with a single bill. That’s spending with no revenue source to pay for it. It’s all borrowed money. That’s more than $84,000 in debt for every man, woman and child in the country.

Idaho has a long history of fiscal responsibility and conservative governing, and when it comes to Idaho’s balanced budget approach, the proof is in the pudding. Last year, states across the country slashed their budgets by 20% to 40%. Meanwhile, Idaho’s efforts to cut red tape and limit government spending helped deliver the largest ever budget surplus on record.

In Idaho, we have much to be proud of. We make our home in a place that is committed to small government and responsible spending. Idaho’s leaders are building a future rooted in these conservative principles where our children’s children can learn, grow, and prosper.

Idaho’s economic recovery has not been even, and some are still in great financial distress. However, there are still more than $1 trillion in unspent funds from the last bipartisan COVID relief bill that have yet to be tapped. Furthermore, Republicans proposed a smaller, more targeted relief bill without state and local government bailouts and much of the wasteful spending we see in the current bill. Republicans’ good faith effort was summarily dismissed by Democrat leaders from President Biden on down.

There’s still time to turn things around in Washington, D.C., but the goalpost of fiscal responsibility gets further away every day. We must start digging out of the spending hole we’ve created for ourselves before it’s too late. This is not a Democrat problem or a Republican problem, it’s an American problem. It’s time for Washington, D.C. to take a page out of Idaho’s playbook and take responsibility for getting our nation’s fiscal house in order so we can give future generations the America they deserve.

Jim Risch is a senator and Republican representing Idaho.

About Sen. Jim Risch


  1. Your hypocrisy is laughable Senator Risch. You and fellow Republicans passed a tax cut in 2017 during an economic expansion which was unprecedented exploding the deficit by $1 trillion dollars and didn’t bat an eye. It was sold on the tired promise that it would pay for itself and benefit the middle-class. It did neither. Nearly all of the benefit accrued to corporations and wealthy taxpayers. The corporations used nearly all of the tax windfall on stock buybacks and dividend increases.
    You tout Idaho’s tax surplus at a time when we are last in the country in K-12 spending, don’t pay teachers competitively and continue to cut funding for higher education. Meanwhile Republican state legislators constantly excoriating them for any attempts at making Idaho a more inclusive and diverse place to live claiming it’s not “the Idaho way”. Like much of the country we have a crumbling infrastructure yet nothing is done.
    Democrats are being much more responsive to the needs of all Americans.

  2. You might want to check the government’s credit card statement from 2017 when you start talking about running up the debt. Remember that $1.9 trillion 2017 tax cut that helped the wealthy in this country with the ruse that it would help the middle class…wrong! Not only have my federal taxes gone up without any change in my overall income but my state taxes doubled as well. As I recall, not one Democrat supported the 2017 tax cut in the Senate vote. So you continue to fulfill the divisive nature of politics with this kind of editorial so you can rally the people in your bubble without being completely transparent. You’re beating the drum of partisanship and fulfilling the image that Republicans catering to the wealthy while Democrats try to help the backbone of the country; the blue collar. When both parties should be mindful of all classes of people that make up this country. Government has always been about compromise. When there are party line votes, that’s not representative of the people’s view. You bad mouth this bill but over 70% of the population was in favor of it. So who is out of touch with the people’s wants and needs?