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Idaho Launch gets JFAC funding, but faces an uphill battle

Brad Little school COVID-19 testing
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Gov. Brad Little warned Idahoans COVID-19 cases are predicted to break new records if more people don't get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Gov. Brad Little’s signature tuition grants program took its first step towards sticking around for a second year. The Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee signed off on its $77.6 million spending plan Friday morning.

Idaho Launch gives graduating high school seniors up to $8,000 if they study for an in-demand career like nursing or welding. The program has faced criticism from some Republicans that it’s too open-ended without enough safeguards.

Sen. Ben Adams (R-Nampa) tried to bar students from using the grants to pay for advanced degrees and to revert a grant back to the state if a student stops studying for an in-demand career.

“There is no policy on this right now and this committee has a responsibility to the taxpayer to make sure the money goes where it’s intended to go,” Adams said.

Adams’ proposal failed with several Republicans saying they’d support a policy change like that if it’s run as a separate bill instead of as an extra stipulation in the budget.

Rep. James Petzke (R-Meridian) said it’s inappropriate to create policy through a budget bill.

“I also think that practically, if we do this in [intent language], because it would only be eligible for one year it would create a lot of confusion within the Launch program or is this a one-time thing or is this an ongoing thing,” Petzke said.

The Idaho Launch budget now needs approval from both chambers.

It faces intense opposition in the House, including from the Speaker Mike Moyle (R-Star).

Gov. Little told reporters earlier this month "hope springs eternal" when it comes to the program's survival. He hopes its popularity — more than 12,000 students have applied for a grant — will pressure lawmakers into supporting it well into the future.

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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.

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