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Labrador opens door to overturning Medicaid expansion initiative if voters pass it; link to full story

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, speaks during a debate at the studios of Idaho Public Television in Boise, Idaho, Monday, April 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger) (Otto Kitsinger / AP)
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, speaks during a debate at the studios of Idaho Public Television in Boise, Idaho, Monday, April 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger) (Otto Kitsinger / AP)

Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador said Thursday that if the state’s voters both elect him governor and pass the initiative to expand Medicaid in Idaho, he’d consider working to overturn the voter-passed initiative; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

In Idaho, a voter-passed initiative has the same status as a law passed by the Legislature – lawmakers and the governor can change or overturn it or replace it with something else if they choose, though that rarely happens. They most notably did that when the Legislature overturned the voter-passed term limits initiative in 2002, overriding then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s veto.

“We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to it,” Labrador said. “I thought they made a mistake with the term limits initiative, but this one we will have to look at the language. … I would look at all the options.”

During a debate televised statewide on Idaho Public Television on Monday night, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, who is running against Labrador for the GOP nomination for governor and also has opposed Medicaid expansion, offered a different answer to the same question.

“I will adhere to the will of the voters,” Little said. “I will work with the Legislature. I checked two days ago about what their forecasted fiscal impact of that is. We think it’s about $39 million, so there’s going to be an impact to it. … As we get closer, we’re going to have to get our arms around it. The Legislature will appropriate the money and the governor will have to figure out how to make it work. But if it’s the will of the people, it’ll be state law.”

Little said he preferred Gov. Butch Otter’s dual-waiver proposal this year to cover about half of the gap population, but it didn’t pass; the House twice refused to vote on that proposal after it cleared a House committee. In 2002, Little, then a state senator, voted with the Senate's 27-8 majority in favor of the term limits repeal bill.

Emily Strizich, co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, the group pushing the Medicaid expansion initiative, said, “Candidates who admit that they plan to ignore the will of the people should not be elected to represent the citizens of Idaho.”

The initiative’s backers announced yesterday that they’re within 1,000 signatures of their goal of qualifying the measure for the November ballot; the deadline is April 30.



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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