This week, Butch Otter passed the baton to Brad Little in Boise. The three-term governor left his office in the Idaho Statehouse to his second-in-command, now-former Lieutenant Governor Brad Little. The rancher from the town of Emmett took the oath of office twice, first in public in front of the Statehouse last Friday.
He took the same oath in private, this the official version, on Monday morning. Then he stepped out onto the big stage for his first State of the State address in front of a joint session of the Idaho legislature. We’ll hear excerpts from that later in the program.
Though Little is a veteran politician, it’s his first go-round as governor. Here are excerpts from his first State of the State Address.
That leads us to Governor Little and his State of the State address.
Brad Little: “As Governor, I will seek to reflect our shared Idaho values and aspirations. This means making decisions through one lens: the lens of ensuring the best possible opportunities for us, our children and grandchildren to remain in Idaho and enjoy our unparalleled quality of life. Making decisions with a long-term perspective means staying focused on creating a regulatory and tax environment where Idahoans can get good-paying jobs. It means having world-class schools. It means delivering accessible and affordable healthcare. It means giving citizens a reason to be confident in state government, by making government responsive, transparent, and accountable.”
The governor stated his number one priority is education.
Brad Little: “These past four years, with the hard work of stakeholders and many legislators in this room, Idaho has a successful record of responsible investment in education. We have increased the budget for our schools by 32 percent. This past year, Idaho teachers received one of the nation’s largest year-to-year pay increases. As Governor, I will continue our momentum and be an unrelenting advocate for educational excellence in our state. To amplify the voices of those on the front lines of education, I will create a Children’s Cabinet to advise me throughout my term on a variety of education issues. My Children’s Cabinet will consist of traditional education stakeholders, parents, and groups across our state dedicated to advocating for children. Our Task Force on Public Education and its five-year plan has been the envy of other states. It has been the force behind an unprecedented, sustained effort to improve Idaho education. My budget recommendation implements the fifth year of the task force recommendations. This investment puts in place the next phase of increased teacher salaries. I’m also recommending an increase to the popular Advanced Opportunity program, which saves Idaho families in tuition costs and provides stepping stones for students wanting to go-on to post-secondary opportunities that best suit them. Now that we’ve agreed on a new Idaho Reading Indicator, I want to boost our efforts for literacy. My budget recommendation proposes that we double literacy program funding to $26 million. The school districts will decide the best ways to use the funds to raise reading scores among their students. They will choose from a variety of proven intervention methods such as full-day kindergarten, reading coaches, and summer reading programs. The variety of methods recognizes no one kid is the same and that Boise may not have the solution for what works in Bonners Ferry or Blackfoot. Our goal must be to ensure all kids begin at the same starting line in life. By the third grade, our students must learn to read so they can read to learn. Our state still has many challenges when it comes to recruiting teachers. In addition to supporting the next phase of teacher salary increases, my budget recommendation fulfills my promise to raise starting teacher pay to $40,000 a year.”
Little talked about the importance of rebuilding citizen confidence in state government. He pledged to spend taxpayer money wisely and to require state government eliminate two regulations for every new rule proposed. He vowed to address the problems with customer service in the Division of Motor Vehicles. And he vowed to follow the voters’ will.
Brad Little: “On election day over 60% of voters approved Medicaid expansion. For months I made it clear I would honor the will of the people. I intend to work with you to implement Medicaid expansion using an Idaho approach. We need spring in our safety net so that there are multiple pathways for the gap population to move off Medicaid and onto private coverage. While making health care available to low-income individuals we should also do what we can to make affordable, accessible, quality health care available to all Idahoans. An unintended outcome of the Affordable Care Act is that too many people are priced out of health insurance coverage. In the past two years, the number of uninsured Idahoans increased by 125,000 – almost double the gap population. As Idaho continues to enjoy the fastest-growing economy in the nation, the number of insured Idahoans should be increasing not decreasing. We must pursue strategies that contain health care costs. That’s why I joined with Governor Otter last year in issuing an executive order on state-based individual market health plans. As Governor I will continue these efforts. These health care plans are comprehensive and provide our citizens more affordable choices. The fact is we have a proven track record of delivering Idaho solutions on health care. When Idaho opted for a state-run health insurance exchange, we created an Idaho solution instead of adopting a federal one-size-fits-all mandate.”
The new governor vowed to expand access and address threats to public lands in Idaho. He vowed to protect industries that make their money in the outdoors, particularly recreational industries that bring thousands of people and millions of dollars to the state. And he said he would try to reduce the threat of wildfires.
Brad Little: “Several factors contribute to the increasing frequency of catastrophic wildfires. These fires threaten public safety and pump millions of tons of pollutants into the air, harming the health of our citizens. They damage wildlife habitat and contaminate our pristine waters. They disrupt our economy and cost taxpayers millions of dollars every year. One of those threats is the buildup of fuels on our public lands closest to where we live, work, and play. A few weeks ago, I signed a first-of-its-kind agreement between Idaho and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This collaborative agreement will reduce wildfire risk, improve forest health and enhance wildlife habitat, by actively managing more acres of federal forests. The new “shared stewardship” approach unifies land management activities that are now disjointed across federal, state, and privately-owned tracts. We’ll use all the tools available to us to reduce fuels around communities, including timber harvest, prescribed burns, and other activities. We’re already seeing a return on our investment in the Good Neighbor Authority, a program that utilizes state employees and contracting processes for restoration work on federal lands. Idaho is leading the country in our fresh, collaborative approach to land management.”
That’s new Idaho Governor Brad Little on the first day of the Idaho legislative session. Thanks to Idaho Public Television for providing the sound for this story.