Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little said Idaho faces more tough budget choices but those decisions could benefit the state in the future. Little spoke at the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho (ATI) conference Wednesday, telling a crowd that included many policymakers that Idaho’s government is in better shape now than it was during the Depression of the 1930s and doesn’t have nearly the debt of California.
Little also said Idaho faces a potentially ugly future of the federal government reducing spending that goes to state programs and services.
“They’re broke—they’re going to have to do something,” Little said about federal government. Idaho’s current budget is receiving $2.2 billion from the federal government, only slightly less than the $2.38 billion in general fund dollars. In the future, state and local governments may need to shoulder the burden for some federal services.
Little said lawmakers will likely need to find more spending reductions, but that education should be protected. “We can’t eat our seed corn,” he said.
“The biggest issue the Legislature’s going to have to address is going to be health and welfare and Medicaid,” Little said. “We’re going to have to get more efficient in delivering those services.”
Little’s talk wasn’t all doom and gloom. “If you think it’s bad here, it’s worse in every other state,” Little said. He bashed California specifically on several fronts, including its large debt and voter-initiative system that he said creates uncertainty for businesses.
“There are going to be tough decisions — that’s the main message I heard,” ATI President Randy Nelson said about Little’s speech. ATI is a nonpartisan organization focused on tax policy.
Nelson said ATI is focused on taxing as well as spending policy for the next legislative session. “People want services, but they’re going to have to accept not quite as much services,” he said. He added that on tax issues, ATI is looking at how heavy the tax burden is and how to broaden it to include more taxpayers.
“The ideal thing is to get the economy going,” Nelson said. He echoed comments from Little that hfeels Idaho’s tax structure and budgeting should encourage businesses to create more jobs.