Gov. Brad Little is confident his historic proposed budget for Idaho will pass through the Idaho Legislature, with a record surplus of nearly $2 billion and the largest funding proposal headed to Idaho education.
“(My staff and I) didn’t do this budget in a vacuum,” Little said. “We believe that the velocity of my budget is going to be very helpful and most of the feedback that we’ve gotten ... has been pretty positive.”
Little held a press conference Friday at the Fish and Game Office in Idaho Falls, answering questions about his State of the State address and proposed budget, which was unveiled Monday. He said even with the large expenses he’s proposing, he believes the Idaho Legislature will pass what he’s proposed.
“Having once served in the Legislature, to do your job you always scrutinize what the executive branch brings and we welcome it,” he said.
Another reason Little is confident is because the Idaho House of Representatives has scheduled a hearing next week on a tax bill that follows his 12% rebate of income tax proposal. The bill would provide a record $350 million in income tax rebates for Idahoans.
“It’s always a good sign when the chairman of the House committee and the Senate committee are both cosponsors,” Little said.
Little went through highlights of his proposed budget, mentioning key areas including education, transportation infrastructure, behavioral health and workforce development, among others.
One investment Little is proposing in eastern Idaho is $10 million to help fund the College of Eastern Idaho’s Future Tech building, a career and technical education facility the college is planning to finish construction in 2024. He said this will help ensure employers in the eastern Idaho region will have what they need from students entering the workforce in the future by allowing them to participate in local curriculum.
“Rather than having education come down from Boise, we want it to be locally run,” Little said. “That’s why I was such a big supporter of the community college … (the college) really works for the people right here in this community.”
The proposal increases funding for Idaho education at all levels, from public school districts to state universities. Little is calling for a historic budget increase for Idaho education, which is an 11% increase of last year’s public schools General Fund. The state would allocate roughly $300 million to the fund, which will give $1,000 bonuses for all teachers in the current year and funding optional full-day kindergarten at all school districts if 80% of families decide to participate.
Little said he wanted the state to be careful with its record surplus because he is not expecting the surplus to grow at the “outrageous” rate it has through the pandemic. His proposal increases the state’s rainy day funds by $260 million, which totals $1.1 billion across all emergency accounts.
“In my wildest dreams, we never thought we’d have nearly a $2 billion surplus now,” Little said. “We’re 23% over what we anticipated – if it keeps going we’ll do more of the same next time.”