Since the Idaho Legislative Session commenced on January 12, state legislators have worked together to effect changes that will positively impact Idaho’s economy.
The bills discussed and passed in the Legislature highlight issues critical to Idaho’s economy, many of which address issues that are particularly pertinent this year, such as education, infrastructure, and transportation.
During his State of the State and budget address, Governor Otter proposed a budget just over $3.08 billion for this year—$152 million higher than last year’s budget. Education funding is a high priority for Governor Otter, as evidenced by his proposed 7.4-percent increase to $1.47 billion to fund Idaho schools. His proposed increase represents his highest hike in education funding since 2008, just prior to the economic downturn.
In his speech, Otter explained its importance: “In Idaho, public schools [. . .] are essential to the health of our families, our communities, and our economy. They are the key to our prosperity and Idaho’s competitiveness in the global marketplace.” Apart from his 7.4-percent funding increase, the Governor also called for a $20-million bump in what he called ‘discretionary operating funds’ for local school districts throughout the state.
Related to increased school funding, Governor Otter signed a career ladder teacher pay bill passed by the legislature. The bill will increase teacher salaries over the next five years, which will cost about $125 million. The increase in teacher pay is meant to counteract the 7-percent drop in the number of certified teachers in Idaho over the past five years.
Another major issue tackled by the legislature this year involves infrastructure funding for roads and bridges. Idaho has more than 175 bridges that are over 50 years old and are structurally insufficient. For every dollar invested in infrastructure now, it is estimated that Idahoans will save $6 to $14 in the future. The legislature increased transportation funding by about $94 million by boosting the fuel tax by 7 cents per gallon, and increasing vehicle registration fees.
Overall, this year’s legislative session has already resulted in significant improvements to funding for public education—a key sector that affects Idaho’s present and future economics. Other topics that the legislature explored in this session included income and sales taxes, increasing state broadband, and making utility upgrades. The collaborative improvement of Idaho’s economy remains the primary purpose of state leaders.
Idaho’s unemployment rate decreased 0.2 percentage point to 3.9% in February, while the national unemployment rate decreased 0.2 percentage point to 5.5% in February.
In February, the CoreLogic® Home Price Index (HPI) for Idaho, which measures home price appreciation, experienced a year-over-year increase of 5.1%. Nationally, the HPI increased 5.6% during the same period.
The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index® increased 2.5 points to 101.3 in March. The Present Situation Index decreased 3.0 points to 109.1, while the Expectations Index increased 6.0 points to 96.0.
The U.S. Consumer Price Index increased 0.4% from January to February. Year-over-year, the index saw a flat rate of 0.0%, which is below the Federal Reserve’s target annual inflation pace of 2%.