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Idaho's governor celebrates successful legislative session

Brad Little talked about the areas in which he feels the state made progress during the 2023 legislative session during a meeting with reporters in Coeur d'Alene.

Idaho Governor Brad Little is taking a victory lap around the state to talk about his administration’s successes during the recently-concluded legislative session. The governor told reporters in Coeur d’Alene Monday that his administration got about 99% of what it wanted.

He’s especially proud of raising pay for public school teachers. Beginning teachers will soon make more than $47,000 a year, along with better health insurance benefits.

“I want to send that message to the high school kids out there today that they need to get into that noble profession of public education. And you can’t do that if you don’t say that you’ll be able to make a good living as a teacher," he said.

Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio

Higher pay for teachers is part of a much higher education budget, more than $300 million more than the previous year. That has earned him the praise of the state teachers’ union.

“We are growing government but it is less, way less than the rate increase in funding because we’re putting more money into roads. We’re putting more money into schools and doing public safety projects," Little said. "But our income is going like that and our spending is going like that. The difference between those two lines is what we’re doing in tax rebates and property tax relief.”

The governor says the state returned some of the surplus through income tax refunds and it has authorized a variety of new infrastructure projects. In the panhandle, that includes a variety of projects designed to lower the phosphorus level in Lake Coeur d’Alene.

“We put money in there last year. They’re putting the grants out. There’s other money that’s going into sewer systems and water systems all around the state. That was about $200 million this year, last year. It’s about $200 million this year and then, of course, what we’re doing in the roads area," he said.

That includes multiple highway improvement projects, especially in Kootenai County.

The governor vetoed only a few bills. One of those was a bill that would allowed library patrons who claim they found pornographic materials in their local libraries to file a civil lawsuit and collect up to $2,500 in damages. Little said he agrees with the intent of the bill, to keep obscene books off of the shelves.

“But the unintended consequence, particularly for small libraries, is the possibility that bounty hunters go around, because it’s a civil case, to get awarded $2,500 for a document that is not very well defined that would really harm small libraries," he said.

The legislature tried and failed, by one vote, to override the veto. The issue may be back when lawmakers convene next year.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.