OPINION: Building Idaho’s future requires looking forward, not backFriday February 5, 2021
By Governor Brad Little
I am sure glad to live in Idaho. We have a proud history and bright future ahead.
We have the strongest economy in the nation. We have one of the best employment rates in the country. We have been open longer than almost every other state during the pandemic and added thousands of employers during 2020, blowing previous years out of the water.
We also have the most financially solvent state budget. Quick action during the darkest months of our pandemic fight, combined with years of fiscal conservatism, have resulted in a record budget surplus.
We are positioned to provide citizens with historic tax relief and make strategic investments where they count.
This is all good news. Pointing this out is not meant to downplay the lives we have lost during the pandemic and the hardship many parents, children, and businesses have endured. It was a hard, tragic year and the challenges continue as we get through the final stretch of our pandemic fight together. It’s also not meant to say we’re perfect – nothing can be perfect. For one, the vaccine rollout needs to happen more quickly, and it remains my top priority.
But consider other states. Instead of taking steps to give money back to citizens through tax relief, other states are considering tax increases to handle the 20- to 40-percent budget cuts they face because they haven’t managed their economy and state budgets as well as Idaho.
There has been a lot of focus on the past 11 months. That is fine, but Idahoans are better served when we focus on our future.
My plan to provide Idahoans tax relief and make strategic investments in transportation, education, broadband, other important areas. It is called “Building Idaho’s Future.”
I am proposing more than $450 million in tax relief – among the single largest tax cuts in Idaho history. These tax cuts will boost your prosperity while keeping our tax rates competitive and our business climate vibrant.
I am also proposing major investments in our roads to help preserve one of your most precious commodities: your time. We cannot ignore a growing problem that steals Idahoans’ time and threatens their safety and our economic prosperity.
I am proposing investments in literacy to close achievement gaps that widened for some students during the pandemic, along with investments in higher education and career technical education training programs across Idaho.
My plan also includes expanding broadband infrastructure, to better connect Idaho and improve commerce, economic growth, and education. In addition, my plan supports major water infrastructure projects and needed projects for agriculture and outdoor recreation.
I am seeking more support for small businesses, on top of the $300 million in direct support for small businesses last year.
“Building Idaho’s Future” also invests in the items necessary to support frontline personnel at the Idaho State Police and training for our local frontline police officers. While other states seek to defund the police, I am proud to say Idaho “Backs the Blue.”
Beyond my “Building Idaho’s Future” plan, my “no frills” budget for Fiscal Year 2022 leaves a prudent surplus, bolsters rainy-day funds, and reflects my continued priority on education, including our valuable teachers. My budget proposal is among the most conservative in years.
Idahoans are fearless, forward-looking people. We have dealt with the pandemic by making the best of it and caring for our neighbors.
But the battle isn’t over yet. We must remain vigilant and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Idaho as we work to get more and more Idahoans vaccinated. My partners at the local public health boards will continue to have my support, as they have had all along, in taking steps to protect the communities they serve.
Given all our success and the bright future ahead of us, if you’re like me, you’re glad to live in Idaho, too. Let’s continue to work together to build Idaho’s future!
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