State Politics

Gov. Little talks climate change, Medicaid expansion, daylight saving time with press

Brad Little gives Inaugural Address as the 33rd Governor of Idaho

Brad Little has been sworn in as the 33rd Governor of Idaho. Little highlighted a few of his goals for his administration during his nine-minute Inaugural Address, including: education, the economy and restoring Idahoans' faith in state government.
Up Next
Brad Little has been sworn in as the 33rd Governor of Idaho. Little highlighted a few of his goals for his administration during his nine-minute Inaugural Address, including: education, the economy and restoring Idahoans' faith in state government.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Wednesday carried on the long-standing tradition of meeting with Idaho Press Club members during an annual breakfast held every legislative session in Boise.

During the confab, the governor gets some breakfast (eggs, chorizo and biscuits this time) and reporters from across the state get to (politely) pepper him with a variety of questions.

Here’s some of what Little had to say during his first Idaho Press Club breakfast:

His first couple months in office as Idaho’s new governor: “We are doing quite well. … Life is not perfect, but if you wanted to have a perfect life you would not run for governor.”

Little, who served as lieutenant governor from 2009 to 2018, noted a couple of observations about being governor versus being lieutenant governor: People show up to his meetings on time and they have a tendency to return more of his phone calls.

Would he let the Legislature sine die (adjourn for the session) without funding Idaho’s Proposition 2/Medicaid expansion?: “No.” When asked a related follow-up question, he reiterated he has already given his one-word answer: “No.”

Climate change: “There is no question the climate is changing. The climate is always changing,” he said.

“When we come to a fork in the road, from a policy standpoint, whether it is legislative or executive branch, we should always default to cleaner air, more efficient fuel systems, less smoke in the air. Anything we can do.

“The carbon component of it is just one of the many things. Nobody talks about what we’ve done with the fluorocarbons that put a hole in the ozone that everybody recognized. This country and the world made great advancements there.”

Whistleblower lawsuits that state employees have filed against the state: “We have (Cabinet) conversations about that on a regular basis. As I said in my inaugural state of the state address, confidence in government is very important.

“We have to do a better job training our supervisory staff about what they need to do to not create an environment to where we have one of these issues,” Little said.

State employees need to feel comfortable talking to their supervisors or other officials when they have concerns, he said.

“Those are issues that take a lot of training, take a lot of time and the state has those in place, but some agencies are doing a better job than others. I want the agencies that are doing a good job to mentor some of the agencies that aren’t doing so well.”

Using general fund dollars for transportation: “I tell all the transportation advocates that when we have a (economic) slowdown, and we will, I mean that is a fact of life, kids will always trump roads, so you cannot count on general fund spending during a big slowdown. We have been very blessed in Idaho with the trajectory of our revenue going up, but we need long-term sustainable transportation funding. … We have always got a challenge by paying for all the roads we need with fuel taxes and registration fees. That is what the Legislature is grappling with.”

Add the Words: “That is a legislative issue. I have talked formally and informally to the group working on it and I hope and pray that they come to some resolution that balances what is fundamental in Idaho DNA, we do not discriminate, but then recognizes religious freedom. I know there are conversations going back and forth. My instinct with where we are now, from a timing standpoint, it may not happen this year, but I do know that a dialogue is going on.”

Sen. Maryanne Jordan, D-Boise, introduced a bill Jan. 18 to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act. The Senate State Affairs Committee has not yet scheduled a hearing on the bill.

Idaho Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon discussing the “balanced approach” and confirming the Legislature will not address anti-discrimination legislation this session.

“It takes time for people to better understand the concepts of this balanced approach and focus on the benefits it provides them,” Hill wrote. “Time we do not have in the current legislative session.”

“Consequently, we do not plan to initiate legislation this year,” Hill continued. “We have made great progress and have developed a workable framework for future discussion. We now invite religious leaders and LGBT rights advocates in our communities to join together to develop a path forward that will benefit all stakeholders. We stand willing to help facilitate such dialogue among those seeking freedom for all.”

Eliminating daylight saving time: “I am all for it if we do it nationally,” Little said, adding jokingly, “My cows don’t know the difference.”

Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, has introduced a bill to exempt Idaho from daylight saving time. The House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday voted to advance the bill to the House for a full vote.

Related stories from Idaho Statesman

Idaho Statesman investigative reporter Cynthia Sewell was named the 2017 Idaho Press Club reporter of the year. A University of Oregon graduate, she joined the Statesman in 2005. Her family has lived in Idaho since the mid-1800s.If you like seeing stories like this, please consider supporting our work with a digital subscription to the Idaho Statesman.