The Idaho legislature gets back to work today [Tuesday] now that the opening day ceremonies are out of the way.
Those include the traditional State of the State address, delivered by Governor Brad Little not long after his official swearing in.
Governor Little pledged to make education his top priority. He said he would support moving forward with the fifth year of his predecessor’s five-year education plan. That includes another round of pay raises for 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. As we reward our educators we expect school districts to continue working with us on reporting measurements that Idahoans need to validate increased education investments," Little said.
He announced he’s creating a task force to review the state’s school system and the progress it’s made during the five-year plan. He says that should help with the creation of the next five-year education blueprint.
One of north Idaho’s new state senators, Moscow Democrat David Nelson, said he appreciates the emphasis on improving public schools.
“My wife is actually a schoolteacher in the Pullman School District for numerous reasons. One of them is because the pay is a lot better," Nelson said. "We really have to help our border districts so that they can pay a competitive wage. As you know, in Washington, with the McCleary decision and what the legislature’s done, there’s a lot more floating around for teachers in the state of Washington.”
The governor vowed again to honor the voters’ wishes and support the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, to make health care available to thousands of low-income residents.
Nelson says his top legislative priority is to ensure Medicaid is expanded, without imposing work requirements on those who buy subsidized policies.