The 2nd Regular Session of the 66th Idaho Legislature began Monday with Governor Brad Little addressing the Legislature and the people of Idaho with his State of the State Address. The Governor placed an emphasis on education and infrastructure as his top priorities along with tax cuts for all Idahoans. Currently the state is looking at $1.9 billion surplus.
The Governor proposed a historic 11% or $300 million of new money increase to K-12 education funding and a $50 million grant program to help families cover family education expenses. Another $47 million would go toward funding literacy programs that school districts may use for all day kindergarten. Some of the K-12 increase includes a 10% increase in teacher salaries along with a $1,000 bonus for every teacher. $44.9 million of new money would go toward the teacher career ladder. The Governor’s request also includes a 7.1% increase for the state’s four- year universities and 4.8% increase for the community colleges.
The population in Idaho continues to grow, and our transportation infrastructure is stressed. It seems that everywhere you go, the roads are crowded. This year, Governor Little is proposing $200 million in one- time funding to fix local bridges. Currently, Idaho has over 900 bridges that are over 50 years old. Another $200 million in ongoing funds would be added to the current programs for road repairs. This money would be split between the state and local governments.
The plan is to do this with no new taxes. The Governor is also proposing an increase in funds for broadband infrastructure across the state.
The Governor continues to place a focus on tax relief as well. His budget proposal includes a plan to return $1.5 billion back to Idaho taxpayers over the next 5 years. His budget provides $350 million in income tax rebates. He wants to lower income tax rates by reducing the rate from 6.5% to 6.0% for both individuals and businesses. This would amount to $251 million for taxpayers this year. The Governor also is proposing to freeze the unemployment base tax rate at 2021 levels. This would save Idaho businesses $64 million over the next two years. He also in proposing to add $260 million to the rainy-day fund to prepare for any future economic downturn.
Overall, the State of Idaho is in a great place financially. Unemployment is down and the state continues to grow. We have our challenges with this growth and the Governor’s proposals seek to address these issues. There also seems to be agreement in the Legislature to do what we can for education, transportation, and tax relief for Idahoans as these are all top priority for the Legislature as well. Other important issues such as water, behavior health, healthcare costs, agriculture, and natural resources will also be priorities this session. These next few weeks will be exciting as we work to come together on the budgets and issues.
It continues to be an honor for me to represent Legislative District 32 and work on your behalf. Feel free to contact me with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call 208-332-1429