Gov. Little puts ‘Idaho First’ during State of State speech


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BOISE, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) —Governor Brad Little is putting Idaho first. The Governor unveiled his budget priorities during his State of the State Address Monday. His budget in part includes historic investments in education and public safety.

In his Idaho First plan the Governor plans to fulfill the $330 million investment in K-12 public schools during the special session, by targeting starting teacher pay to be in the Top 10 nationally, boosting benefits for all teachers, and improving school facility security.

  • Targets starting teacher pay to Top 10 nationally ($47,477), up from #41 nationally when Governor Little took office.
  • Strengthens pay for all teachers – including our most experienced educators — by $6,359. In total, this adds $145 million for enhanced teacher pay statewide.
  • Closes the salary gap that schools face for classified staff by providing $97.4 million to better position schools to hire critical support staff such as cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and paraprofessionals.
  • Continues the state’s commitment to raising take-home pay of teachers and school staff by providing an additional $27.9 million for health insurance benefits.
  • Provides $52.4 million for the largest single-year boost of discretionary funding to schools in state history, allowing local schools to meet local needs and defray reliance on property taxes.
  • Puts forward $2.9 million in ongoing funding to improve dyslexia outcomes throughout the state through training and outreach.
  • Makes permanent the widely popular Empowering Parents grants by investing $30 million to continue helping families take charge of education expenses for their children.
  • Provides $20 million in one-time grants for the Securing Our Future Initiative from the Office of School Safety and Security. Funds will be used to make meaningful, durable, and demonstrated effective investments in K-12 school facility security throughout the state.
  • Provides $30 million in one-time grants to preserve school investments in information technology, including student and classroom devices and network infrastructure.

Additionally, the “Idaho Launch” scholarship will be the single largest investment in career technical and workforce training in state history, as the availability of skilled workers is the number one challenge facing Idaho employers, said Little.

  • Expands the successful Idaho Launch program, investing $80 million to provide $8,500 for qualifying high school graduates to use at any Idaho university, community college, career technical program, or workforce training provider of their choice.
  • Directs an investment of $110 million for community college and university infrastructure to increase capacity and prepare for rising student demand in targeted fields.
  • Includes $15 million to train individuals for jobs being created through the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. This will strengthen American manufacturing, supply chains, and national security as companies bring semiconductor manufacturing back to U.S. soil over the coming decades.

“I am very proud to announce that my budget provides access to a scholarship of $8,500 dollars, starting next year. to every graduating Idaho student in Idaho to attend an Idaho University, community college, or workforce training program of their choice,” Little said.

The Governor’s budget also provides $1.6 million to address the ongoing fentanyl crisis, and helps state law enforcement agencies with recruitment and retention of employees with a 10% salary adjustment. It is more than a $6,000 annual raise for an average state police trooper.

  • Strengthens recruitment of state law enforcement officials with a 10% salary adjustment, which is more than a $6,000 annual raise for an average state police trooper. Prioritizes officer safety by providing $200k to outfit every state trooper with safety equipment. Further enhances public safety by adding two additional staff to the sex offender registry unit at the Idaho State Police to ensure thorough review of all sex offender registrants.
  • Provides $14.8 million to construct Idaho State Police district facilities in Lewiston and Idaho Falls.
  • Also provides $1.6 million ongoing to the Idaho State Police to develop a statewide drug interdiction team to respond to the ongoing fentanyl crisis. Also provides $1.6 million one-time and $721k ongoing for the expansion of drug testing and fentanyl training in the Department of Correction to allow for earlier detection and intervention when the department’s supervised population relapses on dangerous drugs.
  • Transfers $1.1 million to the Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to help stabilize against the increased costs attributable to inflation so that critical training for law enforcement officers is not further disrupted.
  • Provides $4.1 million for additional safe teen reception centers, in addition to the eight centers funded last year, to provide an alternative placement option for law enforcement for troubled youth to connect them with long term community-based resources to avoid further entrance into the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.
  • Implements Idaho Behavioral Health Council recommendations by providing $400k for a court implemented pre-plea diversion program and a low-risk/high need treatment court evaluation pilot program.

When talking about his” Back the Blue” priorities the Governor took a minute to talk about the four murdered college students in Moscow, Idaho, followed by a moment of silence for them.

“This past Fall four young lives ended in one of the worst crimes our state and nation have ever seen. Ethan, Kaylee, Xana and Maddie were brutally murdered in a home near the University of Idaho campus. The loss of these incredible people is felt exponentially,” Little said.

Little’s budget continues his commitment over the last few years of putting more money in Idahoans pockets through tax cuts. Over the past four years the state has returned $2.7 billion to Idahoans’ pockets, with relief on income taxes, property taxes, and an expanded grocery tax credit In his Idaho First plan the Governor’s plan sets aside over $100 million of state funding for ongoing tax relief.

  • Fully implements the flat tax passed during the 2022 special session, which returns more than $145 million in ongoing income tax savings to Idahoans and eliminates taxes on the first $2,500 of income earned.
  • Sets aside an additional $120 million of state funding for ongoing tax relief to be directed to local government property tax mitigation.

Now that the Governor’s budget priorities have been outlined lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are weighing in.

Republican House Majority Caucus Chairman Rep. Dustin Manwaring said the Governor “doubled down” on his commitment to education during his state address Monday. That was the theme that stood out most to him. However, there is one item in particular that he will be keeping an eye one, and that is in-demand careers

During the special session Governor little and the legislature set aside $80 million to improve workforce education opportunities throughout Idaho

“I want to make sure that goes towards in-demand careers in Idaho and we follow through and do what we said we were going to do,” said Manwaring. “We need to make sure that the jobs that need more qualified people in Idaho that we are putting dollars towards connecting them with those jobs that are available.”

On the other side, Democratic Rep. James Ruchti is a little concerned that talks of school choice by some Republicans might derail some, or a lot, of the Governor’s public education priorities, as some lawmakers feel public education might be under attack this session, Ruchti said.

He said the school voucher program, which allows education dollars to “follow the child,” through state-funded scholarships to pay tuition at private, charter or religious schools, will take taxpayer funds away from public schools.

In the end the school voucher program could have a detrimental impact on public schools, especially the rural ones.

“You can look at Indiana. You can look at Nevada. You can look at other states that have gone down this path. I think if you have a serious conversation with people in those states about what they see, they will tell you it was a mistake to get on that voucher path,” Ruchti said.

Starting Tuesday the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee will start reviewing the Governor’s recommended budget.

Idaho First Plan:

Infrastructure Investment

  • Invests $96.8 million to fully fund the known ongoing transportation safety gap. This will make Idaho roads safer for drivers with capacity enhancements and safety features like turn lanes, traffic signals, widened roadways, and guardrails.
  • Adds $200 million as the second tranche of an effort to improve local bridges, $35 million to improve airports throughout the state, and $10 million for pedestrian and safety projects. Idaho has more than 900 bridges that are more than 50 years old. This investment will improve approximately one-third of deficient bridges to improve safety for all Idahoans.
  • Reserves $100 million for economically significant local transportation projects that are otherwise beyond the reach of local government finances.
  • Leverages $225 million in federal funding to improve broadband infrastructure throughout the state. The Idaho Broadband Advisory Board will oversee the distribution of funds to ensure all corners of the state can have fast, reliable broadband.

Investing in Agriculture and Natural Resource

  • Provides $150 million for investments in state water infrastructure to maintain and expand water projects in Idaho that help ensure a stable water supply across Idaho.
  • Invests $115 million to support drinking water and wastewater systems, with an emphasis on small rural communities in need of infrastructure upgrades that improve water quality.
  • Provides $598.5k in ongoing dedicated and federal fund spending authority for chronic wasting disease monitoring and surveillance.
  • Prioritizes $15 million to strengthen the state’s energy infrastructure. Funds will be used to provide advanced energy efficiency and resiliency technologies for critical infrastructure facilities.
  • Invests $100 million in outdoor recreation. The Department of Parks and Recreation will leverage these funds to expand capacity and enhance accommodations to keep up with record attendance at the state’s world class parks. A portion of the funds will be used to propose a new funding mechanism that will responsibly manage and expand access to Idaho’s great outdoors.
  • Provides $12 million in grants to help farmers, ranchers, dairies, and confined animal feeding operations with environmental improvement programs. This will improve soil, water, and air quality in agricultural communities in Idaho.

Enhancing Health and Human Services

  • Provides $72 million ($21.6 million General Fund and $50.4 million federal funds) ongoing for the Idaho Behavioral Health contract that will provide 10% rate increases and expanded behavioral health services to Medicaid beneficiaries.
  • Includes $24 million for the construction of a secure, forensic 26-bed mental health facility to care for patients committed and determined to be dangerously mentally ill by Idaho courts.
  • Provides $20 million in ongoing federal funding for Ground Emergency Medical Transport to ensure that access to ambulance services and emergency medical care in rural areas remains viable.
  • Provides an additional $15 million from ARPA for childcare infrastructure grants, to expand childcare capacity in partnership with Idaho employers. A portion of this recommendation is targeted to public safety officers given the unique childcare needs they face.
  • Adds $840k for 14 new medical residents to address the shortage of physicians in the state and continue implementation of the 10-year Graduate Medical Education plan. All told, approximately 100 new medical residency positions have been supported over the past three years. Also provides $3 million to assist independent physicians with establishing medical clinics to increase healthcare capacity and primary care access in rural Idaho.
  • Provides $4 million in ongoing dedicated and federal fund spending authority to open and operate the Post Falls Veterans Home, and $68.4 million in federal fund spending authority to match the state’s previous General Fund investment to renovate the Boise Veterans Home.
  • Provides a $2 million investment in evidence-based child abuse and neglect prevention programs. This funding will increase capacity to serve Idaho’s at-risk families with parenting resources and lowers the risk for families to enter the child welfare system.

Preparing the State for a Predicted Recession

  • Pays off all callable debt in the GARVEE transportation bond program ($37.5 million), averting interest and freeing up additional ongoing transportation funding. Fully funds the state’s financial obligation ($21 million) for the North Idaho Bunker Hill superfund site, providing the remainder of the state’s required match and operating and maintenance obligations.
  • Makes the second down payment on state building deferred maintenance ($300 million one-time), positioning the state to clear out more than half of the known deferred maintenance backlog.
  • Bolsters rainy-day funds by $61.7 million to ensure the state is prepared for future economic downturns. The Governor’s budget will achieve the statutory maximum balances for both the Budget Stabilization Fund and Public Education Stabilization Fund.
  • Augments the Fire Suppression Deficiency Fund by $68.7 million to ensure the state has the resources – even in volatile economic times — to fight wildfires that threaten life, property, and Idaho lands.
  • Leaves a surplus (>$200 million) in both budgeted years to provide a greater cushion against economic uncertainty.
  • Maintains a structurally balanced budget over a five-year horizon using a fiscal stress test that accounts for the probability of a recession.

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