By Kimberlee Kruesi /Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Gubernatorial hopeful and Lt. Gov. Brad Little outlined the first details of his economic plan to reduce regulations on Idaho companies and create more job opportunities for Idaho’s young workers if elected governor in 2018.
Little delivered his plan Wednesday outside the recently competed $70 million J.R. Simplot Co. complex in downtown Boise that now houses the Idaho-based agribusiness’ headquarters. The Republican lawmaker is vying to stand out in a competitive 2018 gubernatorial race as the GOP contender who can connect Idaho’s past accomplishments to future growth.
“The story of J.R. Simplot and the Simplot Company is the Idaho story — with this traditional company integrating technology, diversifying, and expanding to become a global leader,” Little told supporters, including state lawmakers and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter staffers.
The economic plan carries familiar details often included in Republican candidate’s campaign promises: Reduce regulation, lower health care costs and find a way to retain and attract Idaho’s young workforce by creating better and higher-paying jobs.
Idaho’s business experts have long warned that the state must not only develop a skilled workforce, but also find a way to retain those employees in state in order to attract companies to expand or relocate to Idaho.
Meanwhile, Idaho is consistently among the top spots among states that have large shares of minimum wage workers.
Little’s approach also includes a plan to implement a first-time home buyer’s savings account. In a nod to Boise’s increasing housing prices, as well as the rest of the state’s housing market, the new program would allow individuals to funnel enough pre-tax income to help pay for a down payment.
Little, who has held elected office since 2001, is also promising to maintain and enhance the state’s health insurance marketplace exchange. The exchange is part of the Affordable Care Act. Idaho was one of a dozen states, as well as the only Republican-dominated state, to launch its own exchange in 2014.
An estimated 87 percent of 106,000 Idahoans enrolled on the exchange depend on federal subsidies to help cover the cost of their insurance plans.
Currently, Little is running against Boise businessman and political newcomer Tommy Ahlquist and U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador — both of who have been critical of Idaho’s exchange. No Democratic candidate has filed to run for the open seat now that Otter has said he will not seek re-election.
Little also said he supports rebuilding Idaho’s high-risk pool to lower health insurance premiums and build incentives for more Idahoans to create health savings accounts.
Finally, Little said he would require all agencies to detail how any new regulations will impact small businesses.
“I will lead a state government that enables the free market to bring jobs and prosperity to our state, eliminating burdensome taxes and regulations that stifle economic and job growth.”
Little added that he will soon unveil future proposals on tax cuts and education to be included as part of the jobs plan.