OPINION: Idaho’s balanced budget represents good government, and it’s what our citizens expect

Friday July 12, 2019

By Governor Brad Little

Four simple budgeting concepts guide governing in Idaho:

Don’t spend more money than you bring in.

Save some money as preparation for a potential downturn.

Make investments where they matter.

Take steps to put budget surpluses back into taxpayers’ pockets.

We just closed the books on the State of Idaho budget for Fiscal Year 2019. We not only stuck to the budget and paid for all our planned expenses, but we ended with a cash balance exceeding $100 million.

In addition, the balance in Idaho’s major rainy-day funds – the emergency funds that help us weather economic downturns without having to raise taxes to maintain essential government services – is more than $530 million.

Looking ahead, the Idaho Legislature closely followed the Fiscal Year 2020 budget I proposed, and we are projecting an estimated cash balance of $174 million at fiscal year-end next year.

As other states and the federal government struggle to wrangle spending, I can assure Idahoans that our finances here are sound. Data from the National Association of State Budget Officers ranks Idaho sixth in the nation for the size of our total balances, including the fiscal year-end balance and rainy-day funds.

The executive and legislative branches work together in Idaho to limit government growth and invest your tax dollars where they can make the greatest positive impact on citizens, especially our children, such as increasing starting teacher salaries to recruit young people into the profession and incentivize them to stay in their careers. We achieved that earlier this year, and the changes began to take effect this month.

In 2018, the Idaho Legislature passed the biggest income tax cut in state history. Since then, corporate taxes spiked $59 million above forecast, a sign of increased business activity. Sales taxes swelled $22 million above forecast, largely a result of increased personal spending. Tax cuts spur economic activity.

I am committed to continuing to work with legislators to put budget surpluses – your hard-earned tax dollars – back into your pockets by eventually eliminating the grocery tax once and for all.

This is fiscal conservatism in action, folks, and I believe it is a main driver why Idaho consistently ranks as one of the top states for job growth, economic momentum, low unemployment, and personal income growth. I believe people and businesses are choosing to relocate or expand to Idaho because we responsibly manage public dollars.

Citizen confidence in state government is a high priority of mine. Idahoans expect accountable, functional government that respects their hard-earned money. To meet that expectation, I will continue to lead with a focus on administering the state’s laws and providing services as efficiently as possible.

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