Gov. Little applauds Idaho’s COVID-19 response, announces new investments in State of the State address

Brad Little
FILE - In this March 13, 2020 file photo, Idaho Gov. Brad Little speaks at a news conference at his Statehouse office in Boise, Idaho. Legislation making abortion a crime in Idaho should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing the procedure has been signed into law by Little. The Republican governor signed the measure on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, according to his website. The measure includes exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. Criminal punishment would be a felony and apply to the person performing the abortion, not the woman. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP, File)

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Governor Brad Little held a State of the State address Monday, confident in their COVID-19 response and unveiling the “Building Idaho’s Future” plan.

As of January, Idaho has lost 1,500 people to the pandemic — which at many times had threatened to break the state’s healthcare network, with many hospitals operating at 99-percent capacity or being forced to send patients to other states. Health experts and executives urged city councils and health boards to adopt mask mandates to curb COVID transmission in communities, but were met with fierce backlash. Some Sheriffs have announced they would not enforce such measures.

RELATED: Kootenai Health at 99 percent capacity, may have to transfer patients to hospitals in Seattle and Portland

RELATED: New Kootenai Co. Sheriff says he will not enforce mask mandate

“With the arrival of a safe vaccine just a few weeks ago, the end of the battle is in sight,” said Little. “We’re in the home stretch, and together we will finish strong.”

Unlike Washington, Idaho opted to keep its businesses open during the pandemic — which protected businesses at the cost of public health. Little says the state put more than $300 million toward grants and PPE for small businesses and invested $50 million in statewide broadband infrastructure for rural Idahoans working or learning remotely.

The state also invested an additional $300 million in education.

With that, Little announced the state’s newest plan, “Building Idaho’s Future,” which Little says is “among the single largest tax cuts in Idaho history.”

This plan proposes more than $450 million in tax relief, achieved with a one-time tax cut of $295 million and a permanent cut of $160 million. According to Little, this plan also shores up millions more in cash payments for small businesses.

Investments under this plan also include $126 million in state and local highway infrastructure projects — needed, according to Little, as Idaho “continues to attract newcomers fleeing dysfunctional states.” Little also proposed another $80 million for transportation funding.

Additionally, this plan provides resources for police officers and the Idaho State Police.

“While other places seek to defund the police, I am proud to say that Idaho defends the police,” said Little. “Idaho ‘backs the blue.'”

Lastly, “Building Idaho’s Future” provides investments in agriculture, water infrastructure, literacy and education, and land management.