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Gov. Little invests in education, infrastructure for his second term

Governor Brad Little's second inauguration
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Idaho Gov. Brad Little's second inauguration in January 2023.

Brad Little is “doubling down” on education in his latest budget proposal, seeing last November’s 80% voter approval of boosting school funding as a “mandate.”

Idaho’s starting teacher pay would increase to more than $47,000 a year – the 10th highest in the country,according to the National Education Association.

Classified staff, like custodians, paraprofessionals and bus drivers would also get raises with the state kicking in $97.4 million to cover those costs.

Local school districts would also have another $52.4 million in additional discretionary funding to put towards what they see fit.

“We are listening, and we will continue to deliver,” Little said to voters.

His proposal would use $80 million approved during the 2022 special legislative session to offer qualifying high school graduates $8,500 in scholarships that could be used at any Idaho university, community college, career technical program or workforce training provider.

“We want Idaho students brought up in Idaho schools working in Idaho jobs,” Little said.

The only explicit recommendation aimed at school choice policies would be making permanent his Empowering Parents program with $30 million in funding for the coming fiscal year. Aimed at lower-income families, qualified parents can receive up to $3,000 to pay for new computers, homeschooling materials or tutoring services.

Residents across the state have been clamoring for property tax relief for years in the face of skyrocketing home values.

The governor declined to float a specific bill to address those concerns, and instead offered up $120 million of state funding for ongoing property tax relief.

Legislators, who have failed to reach any sort of significant agreement on how to beat down rising property taxes implemented by local governments and school districts, will be tasked with coming up with the solution.

A significant portion of Idaho’s projected $1.5 billion surplus would go toward strengthening the state’s infrastructure, like facilities, roads, bridges and water projects.

Little’s spending plan would also dedicate $300 million toward clearing out half of the state’s known deferred maintenance backlog, $100 million for state parks maintenance and expansion and leave more than $200 million in surplus funds for the end of the year.

All told, his fiscal year 2024 budget totals $4.85 billion in state money – a 5% increase over the current year.

Top Republicans largely applauded Little's proposal, though many leaders expressed concerns about ongoing ballooning costs in Medicaid.

Last week, House Speaker Mike Moyle (R-Star) and Senate Pro Tem Chuck Winder (R-Boise) have said cutting Medicaid expansion, which was implemented through a ballot measure passed by 61% of voters in 2018. Both acknowledged such a move was a long shot.

Democrats also largely agree with much of what was in Little’s budget, too. But, they’re concerned they’ll spend much of the session fending off legislation discriminating against LGBTQ people and school vouchers coming from the new class of incoming Republicans.
agree with much of what was in Little’s budget, too.

Legislators will begin crafting their budget beginning Tuesday.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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