The 2020 legislative session was kicked off on Jan. 6 as Governor Brad Little gave his second State of the State address.
The governor stated that education is his number one priority and proposed spending $30 million to continue to increase teacher salaries over the next several years. The proposal was one of the five recommendations that Gov. Little’s “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” task force discussed over a five month period last year.
Gov. Little also called for the increase in school spending by more than $77 million.
“We have a constitutional and moral obligation to all our youngest citizens,” Gov. Little said. “I subscribe to the view that it is better to prepare children today than to repair them later.”
The increased funds will also be used to for K-12 literacy programs and teacher training to promote school safety.
Gov. Little also wants to fund $1 million towards a new cybersecurity program. The program will be a partnership between Idaho State University, Boise State University and University of Idaho.
Funding toward new career technical education facilities at community colleges, support for Idaho Job Corps at community colleges and workforce development grants were also discussed.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said that she was pleased with the governor’s school budget in a press release.
“I greatly appreciate the governor’s focus on continuing to invest in Idaho’s public schools,” Superintendent Ybarra said. “I look forward to working with both the governor and the Legislature on the details of this strong roadmap to improved outcomes for Idaho students.”
The governor’s address also promised a grocery tax relief and taxpayer friendly state agency budgets.
“Without question, Gov. Little has delivered to lawmakers the best, most conservative starting point a governor has given the Idaho Legislature in many years,” Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) president Wayne Hoffman said in a press release. “The governor’s no-gimmicks budget, which holds spending growth to 3.75 percent, is music to our ears, though we believe there is still room for additional cuts. We at IFF also applaud Little’s proposed down payment on the repeal of the grocery tax. We encourage legislators to make grocery tax repeal a reality.”
The IFF is a conservative group that seeks to limit government and government spending in the state. The group claims that it is responsible for developing and advancing policy solutions that limit government and protect liberties.
The Governor’s budget cuts spending leaves a surplus which bolsters rainy-day funds, and will limit true General Fund spending growth to 3.75 percent.
Other highlights of Gov. Little’s address includes investing more money towards handling prison overcrowding. He noted that taxpayers pay over $110 million a year to keep people incarcerated.
Gov. Little said that two-thirds of Idaho inmates are behind bars for probation and parole violations.
The governor proposed spending more towards community reentry centers and the creation of Connection and Intervention Centers that are designed to offer support and treatment for those leaving the prison system.
The governor also talked about Medicaid Expansion funded with net-zero impact on the General Fund and he want to use new funds to address the opioid crisis.
He also said that he will continue to support enhanced short term plans for Idaho individuals and families.
Lastly the governor called for funding towards environmental preservation in the state. He talked about funding resources to advance Shared Stewardship and the Good Neighbor Authority. This program would help to to reduce fire risk, create jobs, and promote forest health.
The governor also supports ongoing funding for wolf monitoring programs and the continuation of Idaho Roadless Commission to enhance state’s authority over federal lands in the state.