BOISE — Fiscal Year 2021 is a year about priorities, according to Governor Little and his team. One major priority noted in the State of the State address: education.
"I subscribe to the view that it is better to prepare children today than to repair them later," said Little.
Recommendations from the Our Kids, Idaho's Future education task force in November were acknowledged by little and some recommended by him, including teacher retention.
Little recommends $7.7 million for teacher pay raise and continuing to boost starting teacher salaries to 40-thousand dollars. That's different from the $30 million recommended to go towards increases for experienced teachers.
"We cannot simply rely on the good hearts of teachers any longer to retain an effective teaching workforce in Idaho; we must pay them competitively," said Little.
Big chunks of funding were recommended to go towards transportation, totaling nearly $100 million. Other hot button issues noted were plans to add 500 more out of state beds for inmates, and rainy day funds in case of another recession. The Division of Financial Management staff says they weigh all scenarios, and the most pessimistic scenario means a 35% chance of a recession in the next fiscal year.
Idaho is ranked in the top 10 states nationally for the balance of our budget reserves, but a credible stress test showed we have more work to do to prepare for a recession," said Little, "that is why I am also calling for us to raise the cap on our main rainy-day fund so that we can better position our state for any economic condition."
House Republicans noted a positive outlook on the speech, though also stating property taxes were "a little light."
"I think there is general agreement in the education part of his, certainly, in the K-3 literacy, I think no one can the need for increased investment and increased literacy programs," said Speaker of the House Rep. Scott Bedke.
Democratic leadership spoke as well, noting their desire to increase commitment to K-12 education, but hoped to see all-day kindergarten on the list.
"We're excited to see renewed momentum in that direction, but unfortunately that was not one of the governor's budget recommendations, but that doesn't mean it isn't something we can work towards at the legislative level," said House Democratic Leader Rep. Ilana Rubel.
For a full overview of the FY2021 Executive Budget, click here.