The Idaho State Legislature convened on Monday, Jan. 11 for its first 2021 legislative session.
Gov. Brad Little kicked off the session with the State of the State Address in which he started off by condemning the riots that happened on Jan. 6 at the Idaho Capitol.
“The violent acts of sum, overshadowed the peaceful acts of many,” Little said.
Little highlighted how far we’ve come as a state in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, touting the arrival of a vaccine stating “the end of the battle is in sight.”
Little offered a moment of silence for the roughly 1,500 COVID-19 deaths and new cases each day. He went on to praise essential hospital workers for their hard work saying “throughout the pandemic the women and men in scrubs have been nothing short of heroic.”
Recognizing the virus has been heartbreaking for many Idaho residents, Little hopes the state can continue to slow the spread of the disease.
Among some of his proudest achievements for 2020, Little highlighted the $300 million in grants for small businesses struggling, $126 million in reimbursements to Idaho property taxpayers and $50 million to remote workers and learners.
On Little’s agenda for the new year is a new budget proposal titled Building Idaho’s Future. The proposal includes $450 million in tax relief for Idahoans, $295 of which will be one time relief and $160 which will be permanent.
Little called for an investment of $126 million to be invested in state and local infrastructure along with $80 million for future transportation funding. State and local police are also expected to receive additional funding.
He also highlighted Idaho’s agricultural profits, which is expected to receive $60 million in long-term water projects.
Idaho lawmakers are ready to get back to work amid a pandemic. Rep. John McCrostie will be working to restore education cutbacks, provide property tax relief, help defeat COVID-19 and get the economy back on track.
“We need to support Health and Welfare efforts to increase testing and contact tracing, and to get COVID-19 vaccines into every corner of the state,” McCrostie said. ”In addition, we can support small businesses across the state that are struggling as a result of the pandemic.”
Rep. Ben Adams a first-term representative, is sticking to the central message of his campaign.
“A large part of my campaign was re-enforcing the concepts of individual liberty and self-ownership. You cannot have a free society and simultaneously be restricted by the state in terms of the freedom to assemble, freedom of speech and freedom of mobility… That is, to conduct your life as you (the individual) sees fit,” Adams said
Adams sees the surge of government involvement in the state as a means to establish more balance of power.
“Our state of affairs has shifted dramatically in the last year towards more government involvement in everyday life, and therefore the most pressing issue for myself and the majority of the Idaho legislature will be the rebalancing of powers between the respective branches of our state government and reinforcing State sovereignty under the Federalist system,” Adams said.
Of the top concerns for the new representative, property taxes are at the forefront.
“Addressing the property tax issue is especially important for my district, where over 70% of the property taxes are paid by the residential sector,” Adams said. “Keeping people from being taxed out of their homes is of great importance to me and my constituents.”
One of the pressing issues that Idahoans can expect to hear discussions on is the economic rebound in the state following the Coronavirus pandemic. Adams believes that will come with less restrictions.
“Idaho’s economy will be most supported when we are able to take the guardrails off of businesses and allow them to conduct their business as they see fit,” Adams said. “There is growing evidence that restrictions levied during the pandemic have had little to no effect on the spread of the virus.”
Amid the pandemic, both legislators are optimistic on the role the legislative and executive powers play in our society.
“I am optimistic that the executive and legislative branches will begin to work together again once the grievances levied by the voters of Idaho have been addressed,” Adams said.
McCrostie believes Little has been looking out for the best interests of all Idaho residents during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I believe that Governor Little always had the best interest of Idahoans at heart, particularly with regard to our health, safety, and welfare,” McCrostie said.