Gov. Little praises lawmakers for advancing Idaho Launch legislation

The two bills expand the Idaho Launch Program to high school students starting with the class of 2024
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 10:52 AM MDT
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BOISE, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Governor Brad Little is thanking Senate lawmakers, after they narrowly passed one of his most important budget priorities this session.

The Senate passed House Bill 24 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 1167.

The two bills expand the Idaho Launch Program to high school students starting with the class of 2024 and allow high school graduates to receive up to $8,000 to attend a community college or workforce training providers.

Launch funds would be limited to tuition and fees. The annual price tag for the program was initially supposed to cost taxpayers more than $100 million, but lawmakers whittled it down to $80 million annually, by requiring participants to invest some of their own money into the payment of tuition and fees.

Supporters of the bill said it will help employers dealing with worker shortages and provide children with limited means a pathway towards higher education.

“But what this will do, this helps really our middle-class families. you will say why do they need that. why do some of the students need this. because our very low-income families qualify for Pell Grants,” Sen. Abby Lee said.

Republican lawmakers were divided on the legislation, especially when it came to the cost of the program. Some compared it to a corporate welfare bill and a form of socialism. Other Republican lawmakers were worried the bill would raise tuition fees with the state government subsidizing higher education costs.

Additionally, some said there is enough money floating around the private sector for businesses to pay for their employees’ training and education.

“Idaho businesses have asked the state with our power to tax to reappropriate limited state resources, in a place that we are not constitutionally mandated to participate, and basically subsidize their workforce training needs, when they in a pure capitalistic economy have the ability to do that,” Sen. Scott Herndon said.

House Bill 24 now heads to Governor’s desk, but Senate Bill 1167 still must pass the House.