The 2014 budget proposal put forward by Gov. Butch Otter includes money to expand the number of seats for Idaho from 20 to 25 in a regional program.
Otter outlined funding for the seats in WWAMI, the partnership between Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho and the University of Washington.
Idaho has never had more than 20 seats in the 32 years it has been a program member, and Otter says thats insufficient considering population growth and a shortage of doctors in the state.
He said the five extra seats would go to students in a program designed to get physicians into smaller communities. Otter cited a study showing that Idaho has the nations sixth-oldest physician workforce.
Having more workers on the job is helping Idaho stock up its unemployment insurance trust fund, leading to an estimated $50 million in savings for the states businesses.
This marks the first reduction in unemployment insurance rates after numerous increases that brought business payments to the maximum and drained Idahos unemployment reserves, forcing the state to borrow some $200 million from the federal government.
Otter attributed the positive news to a partially reinvigorated Idaho economy thats on the upswing five years after the big recession of 2008.
The governor said he hopes that having a little more money in their coffers will be a stimulus for Idaho companies to create jobs.
HIRING MORE VETERANS
Otter wants lawmakers to streamline and expand a 2-year-old tax break, sweetening the pot for employers who hire veterans returning from Afghanistan or Iraq.
He said numerous companies have taken advantage of the Hire One Act, passed in 2011. Others complain that the law giving income tax credits for creating jobs is too complicated.
As a result, he said, he wants to simplify it. Additional changes will address the difficulties military veterans have finding work when they return from duty.
Beyond a 4 percent income tax credit for each new employee, Otters proposed changes would add $1,000 to an employers tax credit for each new veteran employee.
At least initially, the measures cost is estimated at $11 million.
Otters speech had a more upbeat flavor than editions he has given during the depths of Idahos economic malaise, but he acknowledged Monday that for some families, 2012 was a year of tragedy.
Six members of the military died: Lance Cpl. Kenneth Cochran of Canyon County; Sgt. Daniel J. Brown of Twin Falls; Spc. Chris Workman of Rupert; Spc. Cody Moosman of Preston; Spc. Ethan Martin of Bonners Ferry; and Pfc. Shane Wilson of Kuna.
Otter also cited the sacrifice of Anne Veseth, a young U.S. Forest Service firefighter from Moscow who died fighting one of the states many wildfires in August. He announced an effort to create four state-affiliated volunteer firefighting organizations, with about $400,000 in public funding.