A NEW CHAP­TER IN GOV­ERN­MENT

The Idaho Statesman - - Front Page - BY MARTIN L. PETER­SON Martin L. Peter­son, a for­mer state bud­get di­rec­tor and di­rec­tor of gov­ern­ment af­fairs for the Univer­sity of Idaho, is a mem­ber of the Idaho States­man ed­i­to­rial board.

It’s early, but Gov. Brad Lit­tle’s pri­or­i­ties seem to mesh with those of most Ida­hoans.

Idaho gu­ber­na­to­rial in­au­gu­ra­tions are, if any­thing, pre­dictable. The for­mat for this year’s in­au­gu­ral fol­lowed the same pat­tern as pre­vi­ous in­au­gu­rals. With one no­table ex­cep­tion.

For the first time ever, the first lady de­liv­ered an in­au­gu­ra­tion speech. Not just some po­lite re­marks thank­ing Idaho’s cit­i­zens for hav­ing the good sense to elect her hus­band, but a full-blown 10-minute speech. It was a speech with a sig­nif­i­cant un­der­ly­ing mes­sage. The mes­sage was that the gov­er­nor’s fam­ily has been in Idaho since it be­came a state and has played an ac­tive role in help­ing build Idaho’s econ­omy and civil fab­ric to what it is to­day. It is a role that they will con­tinue in the fu­ture with Gov. Brad Lit­tle now at the helm of the state.

In the gov­er­nor’s ad­dress, he spelled out what his pri­or­i­ties will be for the next four years: a good qual­ity of life; good jobs; good schools; af­ford­able health care, in­clud­ing men­tal health and sub­stance abuse treat­ment; pro­tec­tion of nat­u­ral re­sources; and main­te­nance of in­fra­struc­ture. Also, while at­tend­ing to all these pri­or­i­ties, be­ing fis­cally sound and main­tain­ing solid ethics.

As in­au­gu­ral ad­dresses go, it was one of the bet­ter ones of the 13 I’ve heard. It was con­sis­tent with state­ments he made dur­ing his cam­paign, and, for the most part, it focused on pri­or­i­ties of which the vast ma­jor­ity of Ida­hoans are sup­port­ive.

Three days later, in his first State of the State ad­dress, he out­lined his high­est pri­or­i­ties in the bud­get to the Leg­is­la­ture for the com­ing year. For the most part, they re­flected the pri­or­i­ties he stated in his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress. The ex­cep­tion was his si­lence on the need for ad­di­tional state high­way fund­ing. Given the pre­vi­ous gov­er­nor’s in­abil­ity to get the Leg­is­la­ture to act on this is­sue, it is likely that he is go­ing to want to make sure he has some strong ad­vo­cates for what­ever he pro­poses and the abil­ity to ob­tain the votes in the House and Se­nate.

His ed­u­ca­tion pri­or­i­ties largely re­flect a con­tin­u­a­tion of ef­forts be­gun in the Ot­ter ad­min­is­tra­tion. His one new ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tive is the es­tab­lish­ment of what he calls a Chil­dren’s Cab­i­net made up of par­ents and other stake­hold­ers to ad­vise him on pub­lic school is­sues. He might want to con­sider some­thing in a sim­i­lar vein for post-sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion.

He is fol­low­ing through his com­mit­ment to im­ple­ment the voter-ap­proved ini­tia­tive on Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion. For those who have fol­lowed this ini­tia­tive, it was in­ter­est­ing to see the stoic and un­en­thu­si­as­tic look on the face of newly elected Lt. Gov. Jan­ice McGeachin as he was dis­cussing this. She has been a very vo­cal op­po­nent of Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion and the ini­tia­tive.

One of his cam­paign pledges that isn’t ad­dressed this time around is a re­duc­tion of taxes. How­ever, by leav­ing a large bud­get sur­plus to be car­ried over into the next year, his plan is to leave suf­fi­cient money avail­able to come to the Leg­is­la­ture in 2020 and rec­om­mend the elim­i­na­tion of the sales tax on gro­ceries. It is prob­a­bly a wise bit of bud­get pol­icy, the gro­cery tax re­peal aside, to leave a large bal­ance avail­able, so that it can meet a short­fall should state tax rev­enues not meet ex­pec­ta­tions.

I think that Gov. Lit­tle has had a first week that should make most Ida­hoans com­fort­able. He has set his pri­or­i­ties and is tak­ing first steps to have them re­al­ized. He also ap­pears to have done a good job of se­lect­ing mem­bers of his team. While there are a few rec­og­niz­able in­di­vid­u­als who have been around in the world of Idaho pol­i­tics and gov­ern­ment, for the most part he has avoided bring­ing in the usual band of sus­pects. A new ad­min­is­tra­tion needs new peo­ple with new ideas.

The gov­er­nor has talked about the need for trans­parency and ethics in gov­ern­ment. A good start­ing point would be to pro­vide the cit­i­zens with pe­ri­odic progress re­ports on his var­i­ous pri­or­i­ties. There are few bet­ter ways of en­sur­ing ac­count­abil­ity.

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