IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - Republican Governor Brad Little said "he had more pressing matters" to deal with when asked about the Idaho Senate's efforts to limit his emergency executive power.
"What we need to do to get our federal partners in with the health districts and the hospitals. Our ability for the economy to rebound, to get our kids back in school is going to be predicated on getting people protected and that's really what I'm focusing on," Little said in a press conference Wednesday.
Idaho senators joined their House colleagues in introducing four pieces of legislation seeking to increase the authority of the part-time Legislature while limiting the governor's power on emergency declarations like the one dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
Lawmakers say they were left out of the decision to impose pandemic restrictions on businesses and residents after Gov. Little declared an emergency in March.
"I have completely rearranged my schedule to laser focus on getting the vaccine in the arms of people," Little said. "Getting this vaccine out is so important to me. I'm going to dedicate a lot of time to it. What can I do to help a hospital, to help a private entity, to help a health district get this vaccine out? What do I need to do to get people to take the vaccine? Those are all the things."
Gov. Little said while some legislators are focused on his executive power, he plans to move forward with vaccinations plans, stabilizing health care capacity, and furthering the state's economy. With that, he said education remains a top priority, which involves keeping students and teachers in the classroom. Teachers will be a part of the next phase of the vaccine roll out as part of Little's decision to adopt COVID-19 recommendations from the Vaccine Advisory Committee. Frontline workers, and Idahoans aged 65 and over will also be apart of that phase.
"Having kids in school is so important to the economy and it's frankly important to health care," Little said. "The nurses at EIRMC up here and the doctors, if there kids are home and they're having to be home with their kids because they're not in school that hurts your healthcare capacity. Besides that, those teachers have been making big sacrifices and we owe it to them."
Little said his new executive budget for FY 2022 reflects his focus on education, job growth, and economic opportunity. He's calling the budget the "Building Idaho's Future" plan. The plan is to invest Idaho's one-time surplus in state infrastructure, K-Career Education, Health and Human Services, Public Safety, Agriculture, and State Government. The budget allocates an increase in funding for K-12 by 16% this year and 5.4% next year. He recommends $20 million to enhance literacy and other educational outcomes given the education disruptions associated with COVID-19.
To view more budget highlights and more on the "Building Idaho's Future" plan click here.