Farms and economy
The governor’s proposed budget includes a substantial amount of money to strengthen the state’s water infrastructure, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in transportation-related funding meant to improve the roads and bridges farmers, ranchers, and all Idahoans, rely on to get their products to market.
“One of the basic roles of government is to ensure a safe, connected system of roads and bridges,” Little, a farmer and rancher, said Jan. 8 during his annual State of the State address. “The continued prosperity of our businesses, including our farmers and ranchers, and loggers in rural Idaho, depends on their ability to get their products to market.”
Little’s budget proposes $200 million in funding to improve dilapidated bridges in the state and $50 million that would allow Idaho to bond for an additional $800 million “for other badly needed transportation projects.”
“We’ll put the $800 million toward the highest priority, highest value projects that have been in the queue for way too long,” the governor said.
According to Little, 900 bridges in Idaho have been rated poor or predate the moon landing.
Little’s address kicked off the 2024 Idaho Legislature, which typically convenes in early January and runs until late March or early April.
Proposals in the governor’s budget still have to be accepted by Idaho’s 105-person legislature.
The governor’s proposed fiscal 2025 budget calls for providing $30 million to invest in state water infrastructure to “maintain and expand water projects in Idaho that help ensure a stable water supply across Idaho.”
Farmers, ranchers and others rely on the water stored in Idaho’s reservoirs to get through the state’s hot, dry summer months.
Little said the state has “put $1 billion to improve water quality and quantity in recent years and our (plan) also calls for the continued expansion of water infrastructure so we can ensure a stable water supply during both the good water years and bad ones.”
The governor is asking legislators to approve $3 million in grants to help farmers, ranchers, dairies and confined animal feeding operations make environmental improvements. According to the governor’s proposed budget, “This will improve soil, water and air quality in agricultural communities in Idaho.”
According to Little’s press secretary, Madison Hardy, this $3 million will be used to continue the successful Water Quality Program for Agriculture administered by the Soil and Water Conservation Commission, and Confined Animal Feeding Operations improvements sub-grants administered by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.
“These programs offer farmers and ranchers across Idaho opportunities to improve nutrient management, water quality and quantity, and modernize irrigation infrastructure to strengthen our state’s agriculture industry for generations,” she said.
Little’s budget requests $6.6 million to continue the state’s aggressive response to invasive quagga mussels that were discovered in Idaho for the first time last year.
“Our (plan) continues our state’s response to this highly destructive invasive species,” Little said.
Little’s budget also asks legislators to approve $1 million in bonuses for wildland firefighters “to ensure Idaho Department of Lands can recruit and retain qualified firefighting personnel.”
The governor’s proposed budget calls for an additional $150 million in property tax relief, in addition to the $300 million in property tax relief already provided to Idahoans over the past year.
“No other state in the country has given more tax relief per capita than Idaho,” Little said … “This is not our money. It’s yours and we need to understand that and remember it.”