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Eye On Boise

AdWatch: Ahlquist unveils new commercial on term limits

Idaho GOP gubernatorial hopeful Tommy Ahlquist has unveiled a new TV ad touting his support for term limits, while also criticizing both federal and state government spending . Here’s a look at what it says and the claims.


“I’m Dr. Tommy Ahlquist. Idahoans tell me they’re fed up with career politicians wasting their money. I agree. That’s why I support term limits. It took Washington politicians just nine years to double the national debt. Here in Idaho, career politicians have allowed state spending to outgrow our paychecks. Join me and limit statewide politicians in Boise to no more than 8 years in office. Dr. Tommy Ahlquist, new ideas, fresh approach.”


Ahlquist is correct that the national debt has doubled in the past nine years. According to the U.S. Treasury, it rose from $9 trillion in 2007 to $18.2 trillion in 2015.

The ad appears to suggest that Idaho is spending more than it earns; that's inaccurate, as the state is required by the Idaho Constitution to have a balanced budget each year. Ahlquist’s campaign said that claim relies on a comparison of the percentage growth in the state budget from 2012 to 2015 and the percentage growth in Idaho median household income from during those years.

While it’s true that the budget grew much faster than Idaho household income did in those years, Idaho’s state budget also fell during the recession, dropping from $2.959 billion in fiscal year 2009 to $2.384 billion in fiscal year 2011. This year’s budget is $3.451 billion.

Idaho’s current budget is about 16.6 percent higher than its 2009 figure; but inflation from 2009 to 2017 was roughly 16.3 percent, putting the state budget up by just a fraction of a percentage point from the 2009 level in inflation-adjusted dollars.

“These are the types of claims we often see in campaign ads,” said Jaclyn Kettler, Boise State University political scientist. “They’re technically accurate, but they are sometimes missing some important context.”

On term limits, Ahlquist favors an eight-year limit for statewide elected officials, which Kettler said is a popular concept on its face. The recent death of former Gov. Cecil Andrus focused attention on his record, which included being elected governor four times; asked if Ahlquist believes that shouldn’t have been allowed, his campaign manager, David Johnston, said Ahlquist “has a deep appreciation for those who have served in the past but Tommy is focused on the future.”

WATCH ONLINE: Here's a link to the commercial, which the Ahlquist campaign says it is airing statewide.

Ahlquist is one of three major candidates vying for the GOP nomination for Idaho governor in 2018; the other two are 1st District GOP Rep. Raul Labrador and current Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little. No major Democratic candidate has yet announced for the post; third-term Gov. Butch Otter isn't seeking a fourth term.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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