Little’s agenda: more funding for schools, infrastructure needs and tax cuts

Tax cuts and rebates, investments in infrastructure repair and education programs lead Idaho government Brad Little’s 2022 budget agenda.

The little ones nine-page state-of-state speech, delivered on Monday at the Capitol in Boise, said Idaho’s economy was “stronger than ever.” Reports from state officials say the $ 1.9 billion surplus is mostly the result of money left over from last year’s surplus, as well as better-than-expected tax revenues. Millions of dollars in federal coronavirus relief funds are not included in the surplus.

General fund spending for public education in Idaho would increase by $ 300 million, according to Little’s proposal. The governor’s office says the 11% increase is the largest increase in education funding in state history.

The education proposals include $ 47 million in new spending for children’s literacy programs, an area Little called “my top priority.” He also proposed $ 50 million for a grant program to help parents pay for educational expenses, such as computers, tutoring and internet service. Over $ 200 million is earmarked for public school educator salaries and health insurance premiums.

“If approved by the legislature, this new funding would begin to move Idaho away from the horrific distinction of ranking below all other states and the District of Columbia in terms of spending per student,” Layne said. McInelly, president of the Idaho Education Association, in a statement.

Little’s plan also calls for increased spending on higher education. This plank of the budget request could face strong headwinds within the legislature, where in recent years lawmakers have removed the frustration over college and university diversity and inclusion programs by slashing funding. of State.

Infrastructure would also get a boost as part of Little’s spending plan. Much of this comes in the form of one-time spending: $ 200 million for bridges, a quarter of a billion for deferred maintenance of state buildings, and $ 176 million for debt on buildings. of State. Few estimates that the money for the bridges will cover a third of the state’s current backlog of bridges needing repair.

“We cannot continue our record economic trajectory if our logging trucks cannot cross

old bridges or we can’t get our agricultural products to market, ”Little said.

Little proposed an even larger sum – $ 350 million – for quick tax refunds, plus another quarter of a billion to cover losses from a proposed income tax cut. Little wants personal and business rates to drop from 6.5% to 6%. The governor’s office said the state’s income, property and unemployment taxes had been cut by $ 1 billion since Little took office in 2019.

A billion dollars would be put into Idaho’s “rainy day fund,” a reserve fund that is typically only used when state coffers run out during lean years.

Little referred to polarized views on policing in his request to increase the Idaho State Police (ISP) budget by $ 60 million.

“While others seek to fund the police, Idaho stands up for the police,” Little said. “Idaho is really a state that” supports blue. “”

His public safety demand includes money to investigate drug crimes, reduce recidivism, and a new forensic lab. Little also wants to expand the part of the FAI that is responsible for protecting the State Capitol building in Boise. Several legislators have have expressed concerns about their own safety in the volatile environment of current political activism.

Housing was only mentioned once in Little’s remarks, as part of a longer list of possible investments in his budget program. Accommodation was not included in a more detailed expenditure breakdown provided by the governor’s office. Little did not say whether he would advocate putting money into the state’s housing trust fund. The fund was created thirty years ago, but has been empty for its entire existence.

While noting that Idaho’s electoral systems were intact in 2020, Little also offered to spend $ 12 million to establish a cyber defense fund to help the state prepare for Internet attacks by “bad actors in the world.” China, Russia and elsewhere ”. He does so, he said, to “increase Idahoans’ confidence in their election.”

Little also asked for $ 500,000 to pay for audits aimed at “improving transparency and confidence” in the state’s electoral processes. He did not specify what the audits would involve or how they would build confidence in the elections.

Although the annual speech is ostensibly a summary of the governor’s budget priorities, Little used parts of the speech to criticize President Joe Biden. Little blamed him for inflation, political divisions and problems on the US-Mexico border. Little also criticized federal immunization requirements and touted his track record of fighting warrants and refusing to implement other coronavirus mitigation measures.

The governor also issued a broader critique of the federal government in general. Ticking off popular Republican talking points on taxes, regulations and spending, Little described a qualitative difference between his perception of federal attitudes and Idaho’s anti-regulation, low-tax approach.

Little’s State of State 2022 kicks off an election year in which it is widely expected – but not confirmed – that he will run for another term as governor of Idaho. Little hinted at a re-election bid during a meeting with reporters on Friday, and recent campaign funding revelations show Little has so far raised more money than any of his challengers.

All Little budget requests made on Monday are subject to state lawmakers for approval. This process begins with the joint finance-appropriations committee, which meets from Tuesday, January 11.

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