My fellow Idahoans, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as your Governor I have worked hard to protect lives and critical health care capacity for the entire state while keeping families safe and businesses and schools open.
Every decision has been a balancing act, and while the pandemic response has not been perfect, I do believe we achieved a balance.
How can we tell?
Because we have managed to prevent a crisis in our hospitals, and we have kept our state open longer than almost every other state.
Because now, thanks to quick action during the pandemic, Idaho has the strongest economy in the nation and the most financially solvent state budget.
With our record budget surplus, we are poised to provide Idahoans historic tax relief and make strategic investments in “Building Idaho’s Future,” for us and our children.
Few states can claim that kind of success.
We are in the final lap of the pandemic fight and the finish line is close. We are so close to returning to normal.
But all that success is threatened by the actions taking place in the Legislature right now.
Every single state has active emergency declarations in place to respond to COVID-19.
President Trump issued two emergency declarations that remain in effect today.
When the Teton Dam broke in 1976, during the 1996 Panhandle Flood, whenever there is a devastating wildfire, we initiate an emergency declaration at the request of local communities so Idaho can access critical federal resources — resources we all pay for — to overcome the impacts of the crisis.
Every time, we have used emergency declarations appropriately. COVID-19 is no different.
An emergency is “a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.”
Let me be clear – undeniably, COVID-19 is an emergency.
Hundreds of Idahoans have died and many more have been horribly sick. Many Idahoans still face that same terrible risk.
The COVID-19 emergency declaration was requested by Idaho communities and it is critical in order for Idaho to receive federal assistance — your taxpayer dollars — to manage this crisis.
The COVID-19 emergency declaration has enabled us to quickly cut red tape and increase health care access.
These are facts.
Here is the myth: the emergency declaration somehow shuts down Idaho or takes away your rights.
That is patently false.
Amazingly, some in the Idaho Legislature are perpetuating that myth and actively seeking to end Idaho’s COVID-19 emergency declaration.
What does that mean for you, the citizens of Idaho?
It means less vaccine. More taxes. And more red tape.
It means the vaccine roll out is jeopardized — something that is unacceptable in this final stretch of our pandemic fight.
It means cities and counties will have to find the funds from you to pay for the equipment and support they need to battle COVID-19 in your community.
It means hospitals could lose access to critical supplies.
It means we lose the funding to utilize the Idaho National Guard to support testing, vaccine distribution, food banks, and medical facilities – something that has been a game changer in the pandemic fight.
It means we cannot cut red tape and break down regulatory hurdles that stand in the way of better health care access.
It means your federal taxpayer dollars would go to California, New York, and other states.
It means this terrible pandemic and the disruption to our lives will be extended, not ended.
Some members of the Idaho Legislature are seeking political gain by perpetuating misinformation about emergency declarations. They are playing politics, and unfortunately the loser in this shameful game will be you – the citizens of Idaho.
Members of the Idaho House admit they are not sure of the financial impact of ending the emergency declaration. Why, then, would you move forward with such a damaging move for our citizens, one that will cost Idaho taxpayers tens of millions of dollars?
The Idaho Senate has made it clear they understand the importance of continuing to access federal assistance to overcome the crisis. Why, then, are you intent on moving forward with an action that will have the opposite effect?
I want the people of Idaho to know that I have explained to legislators for months the importance of the emergency declaration and the reasoning behind all the decisions related to the pandemic response. I have sought their input and applied their advice to the state’s response.
I want the people of Idaho to know I am firm in my assertion that the actions of the Idaho Legislature severely jeopardize our ability to roll out vaccine and bring the pandemic to an end in Idaho.
As I have stated over and over, the “no action” alternative has never been an option. Pretending there is no COVID-19 emergency – as some in the Idaho Legislature are doing right now – will have devastating impacts on lives, our healthcare heroes who are protecting families, and our economy.
Those who know me know that I greatly value my legislative partners. Cooperation between the executive and legislative branches is required – and expected – for those of us in elected office to best serve the people of Idaho.
However, the seriousness of this situation demands that I speak up.
I believe in my heart that what the Idaho Legislature is doing is harmful to our people and wrong for Idaho.
I urge my partners in the Legislature to stop the political games and do what is right for the people of Idaho.
Abandon the myth that the emergency declaration somehow shuts down Idaho.
Abandon the myth that the emergency declaration somehow infringes on our rights.
Abandon these irresponsible attempts to undo Idaho’s emergency declaration – an action that only puts the lives and livelihoods of our families and neighbors in jeopardy.
I don’t want to be doing this. I don’t want us to focus all this energy on the past 11 months.
I want us to focus on the future. We have a bright path ahead of us.
Idaho’s economy and state budget are outperforming every other state.
We have the strongest economy and the most financially solvent state budget.
We have stayed open longer than almost every other state.
We absolutely would not be in this phenomenal position right now if we did not have the emergency declarations, if we were not able to act quickly during the darkest months of our pandemic fight.
To the people of Idaho, I am asking for your help to finish this fight. Please, join me. Tell your legislators not to take away one of our strongest tools to end this pandemic. Tell them Idahoans’ lives and livelihoods depend on it.
Idaho, I will continue to work hard for you and make responsible decisions that help us get through this crisis together. Throughout the pandemic I have endeavored to protect you, your loved ones, and our economic prosperity.
I will never relent in that pursuit.
Brad Little is governor of Idaho.