The state of the state is strong.
Those were the words of Gov. Brad Little in his state-of-the-state address on Monday.
Little reflected on all the challenges Idahoans have faced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. He mentioned some of the state’s biggest achievements in battling the virus, including certifying more than 1,100 new healthcare professionals and increasing telehealth by 4,000%.
He thanked healthcare workers for their dedication and “tireless work” to take care of the people in Idaho. The governor also held a moment of silence for the more than 1,500 Idaho lives lost in 2020 due to COVID-19.
“Last year a global pandemic wasn’t on our radar,” he said. “We’ve come a long way in our fight against the enemy virus. With the arrival of a safe vaccine just a few weeks ago, the end of the battle is in sight. We’re in the home stretch and together we will finish strong.
“Like a tornado, 2020 was damaging and deadly,” Little continued. “But with the arrival of a safe vaccine just a few weeks ago, the dark clouds of the pandemic are beginning to part.”
Little added that he chooses to focus on the many acts of kindness from Idahoans over the last year, rather than the acts of violence from a few.
“The pandemic also reminds us that in troubled times, we have choices,” he said. “We can choose compassion over conflict, listening over lecturing, humanity over hostility. These choices start with each one of us individually.”
The governor said we are all looking forward to 2021 and he introduced his plan for the new year called “Building Idaho’s Future.”
He plans to invest in long-term infrastructure projects like agriculture and water. He also announced investment plans to continue supporting law enforcement.
“While other places seek to defund the police, I am proud to say that Idaho DEFENDS the police,” Little said. “Idaho ‘backs the blue.’”
Little announced he will put $126 million toward state and highway projects statewide to relieve traffic congestion and keep up with growth.
"We cannot ignore a growing problem that steals Idahoans time and threatens their safety and our economic prosperity,” he said. “We cannot delay any longer in executing a sustainable plan for transportation funding into the future."
Little added that his top priority remains education. He plans to invest at least $30 million toward improving literacy and access to technology for improved learning.
We must ensure this school year is an anomaly – not a permanent system-wide flaw for Idaho’s students in the next decade or more,” he said. “We must make sure all young students are on track to read by the end of the third grade.”
The governor is also proposing $450 million in tax relief for Idahoans. He plans to work with the State Legislature to get tax relief passed this session.
The governor reiterated the importance of unity and community in these times.
“I’ll repeat it: what a year we had. My fellow Idahoans, the pandemic made us appreciate parts of life we took for granted, and I don’t just mean the availability of toilet paper,” Little said. “We learned not to take for granted time with family, our faith, and our freedom. Despite all the differences of opinion, I know this: we are united in our love for Idaho and this great country of ours.”
Little ended with a message of hope and encouragement.
“I believe history will remember Idahoans’ tremendous outpouring of support for each other during the pandemic,” he said. “I want to thank the people of Idaho for their perseverance and the care they have shown others over the past ten months. In times of hardship, opportunity for growth emerges. As Idahoans, we must choose to come out of the pandemic stronger, more resilient, and more united than ever before. God bless Idaho, and God bless the United States of America.”