Senators watch State of State message on screens

Senators watch Gov. Brad Little's State of the State message on screens in the Senate chamber on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.

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Idaho Gov. Brad Little focused on a package of tax cuts and infrastructure investments in his State of the State and budget message to state lawmakers on Monday, saying beyond that, he’s proposing a “no-frills budget.” Little gave his third State of the State address in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, departing from tradition to speak remotely, as lawmakers watched on screens, each house from its own chambers.

“I thought it was a good vision for the future, and I think things that we can work on with him and improve our state,” said Senate President Pro-Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise.

The governor asked for a moment of silence to remember the more than 1,500 Idahoans who have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. He praised lawmakers, the Idaho National Guard, health care workers and hospitals for their work to cope with the pandemic.

"The COVID-19 reality is heart breaking," Little said. "To Idaho's hospitals and health care workers, thank you."

He noted that the pandemic "turned our work lives, social lives and home lives upside down. It pushed our health care, education and unemployment systems to new lengths."

Yet, the state ended up with a significant budget surplus, as federal aid funds poured in, the economy continued to chug along despite the spring shutdown and people continued moving to Idaho by the thousands.

“The sound decisions of Idaho leaders in the past have gotten us to where we are today,” the governor said. “Let’s keep our state on this strong economic trajectory, together. Now is the time to make meaningful investments.”

You can read my full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up Tuesday's print edition of the Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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