Yesterday, Governor Brad Little delivered the State of the State address in a new format—virtually. The speech was short in comparison to years past without the usual breaks for legislative applause. It clocked-in around 30 minutes long. With a theme of “Building Idaho’s Future,” he touched on several topics that will be of interest to counties.
Governor Little began his speech acknowledging the violent events at the U.S. Capitol last week. He said, “The riots tarnished the shining values America stands for…Hostility and violence are not an expression of your rights; they are a violation of everyone else’s.” He encouraged Idahoans to commit to peaceful assembly and civil discourse.
Governor Little acknowledged the loss of life due to the pandemic and healthcare workers putting their lives on the line to care for others. He praised the bravery shown by members of the seven public health districts despite heated opposition and expressed his support for them. He also acknowledged tough decisions made by county and other local officials. He expressed gratitude saying, “These local leaders labored late into the evening. They navigated new technologies to inform the public. They wrestled with decisions they knew would draw criticism. Thank you.”
Governor Little proposed $450 million in tax relief. This would include $295 million in one-time money as well as $160 million in permanent tax cuts.
He proposed $126 million in investments to state and local highway infrastructure projects as well as an additional $80 million dollars for one-time state and local projects. He is committed to securing a long-term funding source. The funding for the long-term investment would blend
General Fund and user fees.
Broadband access was also a point of discussion during the State of the State address. Governor Little committed to continuing investments in internet connectivity. This would focus in part on bringing broadband access to rural unserved or underserved households. This could include $35 million for a competitive grant program with an emphasis on these unserved and underserved areas.
In addition, Governor Little committed to make investments in and support drinking water and wastewater projects in rural communities. He also proposed investing in outdoor recreation projects to serve as a tourism catalyst in rural communities including $3 million for outdoor
recreation with a specific focus on trails.
The Governor’s budget recommends a $12.5 million cost-share with the counties as a result of savings realized from Medicaid Expansion.
Governor Little recognizes the difficulties law enforcement agencies are currently facing. He committed to invest in training for local frontline police officers with increased funding for POST in the amount of $800k. The distribution would impact the General Fund and Counties/Cities equally with $400k each. In addition, he committed to making strategic investments in overdue infrastructure needs in the criminal justice system.
Governor Little proposed ramping up investments to promote healthy lands and reduce wildfire risk using active land management through collaboration with the Good Neighbor Authority and Shared Stewardship. In addition, the Governor proposed a one-time transfer of $20 million
to the Fire Suppression Deficiency Fund to ensure necessary resources to combat fires on private, state, and federal lands in Idaho.
With the rapid shift to public meetings being held online, Governor Little proposed a one-stop shop to access public meeting information with any state agency. This would be done through a new online resource in conjunction with the state controller’s office.
Governor Little shared that the 3.8 percent ongoing growth in the state budget is among the most conservative that Idaho has had in years. He committed to continuing to budget conservatively while also being strategic with investments for the future of Idaho. He closed by encouraging unity among Idahoans by saying, “As Idahoans, we must choose to come out of the pandemic stronger, more resilient, and more united than ever before.”