Governor says Idaho well-prepared for uncertain economic future
(Idaho Capital Sun) Idaho’s top two statewide elected officials said Wednesday that the state is well-positioned to ride out economic uncertainty created by the collision of inflation and high interest rates with rapid growth officials are still taking stock of.
Gov. Brad Little and Lt. Gov. Scott Bedke were among the speakers during the 77th annual Associated Taxpayers of Idaho conference Wednesday in downtown Boise.
Speaking to a politically savvy, influential audience, Little and Bedke highlighted the Idaho Legislature’s efforts to cut property taxes, reduce income taxes, bolster the state’s rainy day savings accounts and spend down a record state surplus through investments in public education, state parks, roads and infrastructure projects.
“We have in recent years offered more tax relief per capita than any other state,” Little said.
Governor touts Idaho Launch program
During his almost 20-minute speech, Little highlighted his Idaho Launch grant program. Idaho Launch provides Idaho high school seniors with up to $8,000 they can use for career-technical education, workforce training programs, two-year colleges or four-year colleges for in-demand careers. The Idaho Legislature expanded the Idaho Launch program during the 2023 legislative session by passing House Bill 24.
“The one limitation on the workforce that I hear is … that we have got to have more skilled workers,” Little said.
“For every single Idaho kid who walks across the podium in May and gets their (high school) diploma, there’s going to be resources for them to go on to become a welder, to become an electrician, to become a lineman, plus all the traditional jobs,” Little added.
Officials highlight Idaho past budget surpluses
During his speech, Bedke highlighted how the Idaho Legislature used the state’s record $2 billion surplus from 2022.
“So what did we do with all that money?” Bedke asked. “We invested back in Idaho. We returned money back to our taxpayers back-to-back-to-back times. We paid off every callable bond that we could. We filled up every savings account that we could. We changed the law to make the savings accounts larger to accommodate more money. We invested back into our roads and bridges and our water systems – all the vital, strategic infrastructure that the state needs going into the future. We invested back into our schools, our kids. And we’ve done that in what I think is a very responsible way.”
Neither Little nor Bedke unveiled any specific new policy proposals for the 2024 legislative session on Wednesday.
Little did say Idaho’s days of record, billion-dollar surpluses are likely in the past because of multiple rounds of tax cuts that reduce state revenue collections.
Associated Taxpayers of Idaho is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that represents taxpayers’ perspectives to policymakers through research and education.
First held in 1946, the conference attracts a who’s who among Idaho’s business and political leaders. For decades the conference has had a reputation for serving as the unofficial kickoff to Idaho’s annual legislative session, which begins next year on Jan. 8.
Other speakers and panelists at Wednesday’s conference included Little, Bedke, Idaho Secretary of State Phil McGrane, State Controller Brandon Woolf, Ada County Assessor Rebecca Arnold and Speaker of the Idaho House Mike Moyle, R-Star.
Little’s father, David Little, was one of the founding members of Associated Taxpayers of Idaho.
During his presentation, McGrane discussed several new data visualization reports available on the Idaho Secretary of State’s website, including a new report showing Idaho is becoming more conservative based on the party affiliation of voters moving here from other states.
Aside from elected officials, economics and tax experts also spoke during Wednesday’s daylong conference. Several presenters said they were studying mixed economic signals and were unsure whether to expect a mild recession, a significant recession or continued economic growth without any kind of recession in the short-term future.