Tommy Ahlquist is touting — and defending — his controversial pledge to cut $100 million from the state budget in his first 100 days as governor.
The Republican gubernatorial candidate released a 30-second TV ad restating his pledge, and saying that much of the savings could be realized by restructuring the state’s employee health insurance plan.
In a news release, the Boise developer and physician responded to critics of his budget pledge — albeit not by name.
“To be clear, I’m not talking about cutting education or critical needs funding,” said Ahlquist. “I’m talking about taking a sharp scalpel to wasteful spending and creating savings that can be used for meaningful tax reform, our rainy-day fund or to help fund important priorities for our state.”
The Ahlquist plan drew fire from the Republican co-chairs of the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.
“You can’t cut that amount without going into education, which represents about 48 percent of the budget,” Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, told Chuck Malloy of Idaho Politics Weekly. “So, if you’re cutting $100 million from the budget, then you’re taking $48 million from K-12.”
Citing a report from a state actuarial consultant, Ahlquist says restructuring the insurance plan could save the state $60.6 million over three years, and $100 million over six years.
Ahlquist is one of three major Republican candidates seeking to succeed retiring Gov. Butch Otter. U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador and Lt. Gov. Brad Little are also in the race.