Fact check on campaign fliers for Idaho Propositions 1, 2
The last half of October produced a flurry of printed campaign advertisements on Idaho’s two statewide ballot measures.
Proposition 1 would restore historical horse racing to the state. Proposition 2 would expand Medicaid eligibility in Idaho.
With just days to go before Election Day, here are some recent claims we’ve seen in mailers that reached voters’ doors.
YES ON PROP 2
Claim: 62,000 more Idahoans will become eligible for Medicaid under the expansion.
Fact check: The number is actually higher, according to an Idaho Department of Health and Welfare report on the expansion. An estimated 91,000 people will gain coverage: 59,000 in the “coverage gap” — meaning their income is less than or equal to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, making them currently ineligible for Medicaid or federal premium assistance — and 32,000 whose income is between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That number is an estimate based on historically low unemployment numbers, among other things, and could change depending on the economy.
Claim: Expanding Medicaid will save tens of millions of dollars in local taxes each year by reducing unpaid medical bills and expensive emergency room visits.
Fact check: Health and Welfare’s report does not specifically address costs of medical bills or ER visits. It estimates the expansion will cost Idaho $45 million per year, but save $40 million in state and local budget offsets, including costs currently incurred by Idaho’s county indigent and catastrophic health care funds. After savings, the cost of expansion from 2020-2030 is estimated at $105 million, according to department spokeswoman Niki Forbing-orr.
Claim: Expanding Medicaid will bring $400 million of tax money back to Idaho from Washington, D.C.
Fact check: Idaho would receive more federal funds if Medicaid is expanded, but there’s no specific pot of Idaho tax dollars that’s being withheld from the state, or money earmarked for Idaho that’s being currently used for some other purpose in D.C. That’s according to the Congressional Research Service, which provides nonpartisan analysis to Congress.
Claim: Medicaid expansion will keep rural hospitals and clinics open.
Fact check: The rural hospitals themselves say this is true, and that the additional payments they’d receive from insured patients would be enough to address their poor financial situations. Without Medicaid expansion, “I don’t know that we would be here five years down the road,” said Lenne Bonner, president of Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics and St. Mary’s Hospital, in a previous Statesman and Idaho Reports story.
Claim: Medicaid expansion will create 5,000 new jobs.
Fact check: A 2018 study conducted by the University of Idaho and sponsored by the Idaho Hospital Association estimated expansion would create 5,389 new jobs.
The Statesman has not received any mailers advocating a “no” vote on Prop 2.
YES ON PROP 1
Claim: Treasure Valley Racing will donate 100 percent of its net profits to a foundation.
Fact check: Treasure Valley Racing has indeed made this pledge, although the proposition’s language does not require it. Todd Dvorak, a spokesman for the proposition’s proponents, said “the foundation’s articles of incorporation have been filed with the Idaho secretary of state and the foundation has been seeded with $100,000.” The company operates one of Idaho’s horse tracks, albeit the state’s biggest, Les Bois, and its pledge does not cover all profits from horse racing in the state.
Claim: Proposition 1 will create jobs and provide millions of dollars to local communities.
Fact check: Boise State University’s economics department studied this in 2015. The study found that horse racing and betting at Les Bois Park directly or indirectly employed 536 people and contributed to $35 million in sales in the Treasure Valley community.
Claim: The Coeur d’alene Casino is spending millions of dollars spreading lies about Proposition 1, and denying Idahoans hundreds of jobs and funding for schools.
Fact check: The Coeur D’alene Tribe, which operates the casino, has indeed spent $2.5 million opposing Proposition 1, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office. The proposition would create jobs and fund schools. Both sides in the bitter campaign have accused each other of lying.
NO ON PROP 1
Claim: Money made from horse racing from 2013-2015 that was supposed to go to schools and local breeders was illegally taken and misspent.
Fact check: When historical horse racing was legal from 2013 to 2015, the law split a fraction of its proceeds among several groups, including horse breeders and public schools. In addition, money that remained at the end of the year in the account intended for horse breeders was supposed to also be redirected to schools. A 2015 state audit of the Idaho Racing Commission found $ 72,000 that remained in the breeders’ account at the end of
2014 was later given to breeders, not schools. The commission requested the money back once it learned of the problem, and Dvorak said the money was eventually returned to the schools.
Claim: Casino owners will make 18 times as much money from Proposition 1 as Idaho schools will.
Fact check: The use of the words “casino owners,” paired with an image of a man with a large cigar in his mouth, in a mailer paid for by tribes that operate actual casinos provoked strong objections from Treasure Valley Racing. But it’s true that the historical racing machine operators will keep 9 cents from every dollar wagered; that money is not all profit, but also covers expenses and race purses, according to Statesman reporting. A half-cent would go to local schools, so the math is correct.
Claim: Proposition 1 supporters have doctored news reports and lied in TV advertisements.
Fact check: One campaign advertisement funded by Treasure Valley Racing edited a news clip from a KTVB fact check, changing it from “Our Joe Parris verifies if those claims are accurate” to “verifies those claims are accurate,” according to Statesman reporting. Dvorak attributed the change to a misunderstanding of the sentence, and said the people making the ad did not intend to be misleading. Both sides in the bitter campaign have accused each other of lying.