Gov. Little ‘Looks to the Future’ in Upbeat First State of the State Address
BOISE, Idaho (KLIX) – Gov. Brad Little gave his first State of the State address Monday, telling legislators that he did not join them to “reminisce about Idaho’s past, but to look to our future." He also said education will be the top priority of his administration.
Little briefly thanked former Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and others in attendance at the capitol for their service, saying that he stands “on the shoulders of great men and women who have mentored me along my way.”
The 33rd governor of Idaho, fulfilling perhaps his first promise – to look to the future – then continued with forward-thinking remarks:
“As Governor, I will seek to reflect our shared Idaho values and aspirations,” he said, kicking off this year's legislative session. “This means making decisions through one lens: the lens of ensuring the best possible opportunities for us, our children and grandchildren to remain in Idaho and enjoy our unparalleled quality of life.”
On his agenda to help make that happen, he said, are tackling the state’s “regulatory and tax environment,” establishing better paying jobs, ensuring “world-class schools,” and “delivering accessible and affordable healthcare” – all lofty ambitions for a first-time governor, though Little seemed unfazed in his speech, promising to make government under his administration “responsive, transparent, and accountable.”
Little also wasn’t shy about praising the Gem State, noting that Idaho “delivered one of the largest tax cuts in state history,” and said his “budget recommendation will balance our books and fulfill important promises.”
One of his recommendations is to raise teacher starting pay to $40,000, he said. He wants more than $100 million in new money go toward education out of a $3.89 billion budget, and recommends that Idaho double its literacy program funding to $26 million.
Democratic leaders responded to Little’s speech with optimism about the new governor.
“With Gov. Little comes an opportunity for a fresh start that Idaho needs,” said Democratic Leader Sen. Michelle Stennett. “He has the ability to correct past mistakes and ensure a better quality of life for Idahoans.”
She said her party expects “this new administration to advocate for more responsible fiscal policy that will give relief to all Idahoans,” and stressed the importance of education. “We know that education and jobs go hand-in-hand. If you are weak on education, you are weak on jobs and opportunity.”
House Democratic Leader Rep. Mat Erpelding said Idaho democrats “look forward to finding bipartisan solutions to our state’s challenges.”
He continued: “Our core values of ensuring the security of our families, providing quality educational opportunities to our children, and protecting our quality of life provide a guide that will help us work with the new administration to benefit all Idahoans.”
Erpelding said he believes implementing Medicaid Expansion should be the “number one priority.”
Little did talk about Medicaid in his speech, noting that 60 percent of Idaho voters in the last election were in favor of expansion efforts.
“For months I made it clear I would honor the will of the people. I intend to work with you to implement Medicaid expansion using an Idaho approach,” the governor said, but also hinting at a broader effort to healthcare coverage. “While making health care available to low-income individuals we should also do what we can to make affordable, accessible, quality health care available to all Idahoans.”
Other topics of the speech were the state’s agriculture – the governor said the industry “remains the backbone of Idaho’s rural economy” – occupational licensing, and transportation issues.
Little also spoke of Idaho's justice system, saying he wants to add 220 beds to some of the state’s corrections facilities, which would include expanding capacity at the St. Anthony Work Camp and opening a community re-entry center in northern Idaho. The governor said he also plans to issue an executive order on substance abuse.
“Our state is on an incredible trajectory,” Little said with optimism during his speech. “With your help, I intend to lead us to the next level.”