Sen. Carl Crabtree is now on record calling himself one of the most conservative members of the Idaho Senate and claiming that he follows the Idaho Freedom Foundation and our Freedom Index. While we appreciate the nod acknowledging that the Idaho Freedom Foundation represents conservative positions, we must point out that Senator Crabtree doesn’t have a consistently conservative voting record. He has moved left on policy bills over the course of his six legislative sessions, and he has always supported big spending.
Crabtree’s Freedom Index scores have shown a steady decline over the course of his six sessions. The Senate has lagged behind the House in Freedom Index Scores and has been on a downward trajectory. For his first four sessions, Crabree typically scored in the 80-90% range and for 2021 was 70.7% and last session was 60.6%. While his score is among the higher ones in the Senate, it certainly doesn’t reflect a conservartive voting record. For 2022, 19 House members scored 80% or higher, yet only two Senate members scored 80% or higher. The House has twice as many members as the Senate.
More concerning is Crabtree’s Spending Index score, which has ranged from 0-21% over the last four years. His spending votes generally are very aligned with the Senate’s Democrats. This is especially important because Crabtree has served on the Joint Finance and Appropriation Committee since his first day in office.
When Crabtree started in the Legislature in 2017, Idaho’s all-funds budget appropriation was $7.9 billion for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18). For FY23, the appropriations that Crabtree voted for total $12.9 billion. That’s a 63.3% increase in five years.
Medicaid serves as one of the big drivers of spending growth. Crabtree voted for the FY18 appropriation of $2.285 billion and for the FY23 appropriation of $4.045 billion, a 77% increase in five years and a staggering compounded annual increase of 12.1%. He voted for every Medicaid budget increase each year.
In 2021, Crabtree voted for Senate Bill 1204, the bill that accepted federal American Rescue Plan Act money. It says, “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.”
Notwithstanding the language, Crabtree voted in the 2022 session to use ARPA funds for bonuses with SB1404 and for arts grants with SB1391. Borrowing money from our grandchildren to fund bonuses and arts projects hardly sounds like long-range investments. And it’s certainly not conservative.
In his remarks to an Adams County Lincoln Day dinner crowd, Crabtree stated that he believes that government should be run like a business, “If you don’t get it done, you don’t get the money.” I guess that Crabtree must believe this largesse is getting something done, because he has voted to dramatically grow state government in his time in the Legislature.