Western Governors’ News: Governors secure major victories for childcare, affordable housing and workforce development during 2022 legislative sessions

The Western Governors' Association offers a periodic roundup of Western Governors' work in economic development, natural resources, education, health and safety, and a variety of other areas. Here are some of the issues that the Governors have been working on recently as many western states wrap up their legislative sessions:

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy introduced the Alaska Food Freedom Act to allow the sale of homemade food products and encourage the expansion of homemade food sales at farmers’ markets, agricultural fairs, farms and ranches. “Over 90 percent of the food staples Alaskans use on an everyday basis is imported from out of state,” Gov. Dunleavy said. “Alaska needs to develop its resources, including Alaska-grown products. This act will put food on the tables of Alaskans when they need it most.”

American Samoa Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga signed legislation to create a Samoan Language Commission in American Samoa that will work to establish both Samoan and English as the official languages in the Territory and develop educational standards for Samoan to be taught in all public schools. 

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation to help maintain a strong base of healthcare professionals throughout the state by extending temporary professional licenses of more than 2,000 critical healthcare workers and investing $25.7 million in a public-private partnership with Creighton University to expand the Accelerated Nursing Academy.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation to bolster the development of the substance use disorder workforce by authorizing new workforce development programming that includes stipends to cover the costs of testing, registering and certifying to become a substance use health care provider, and tuition reimbursements for undergraduate and graduate students who complete coursework in programs related to substance use disorders.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed legislation to provide universal free pre-school for all Coloradans, which his administration estimated will save families an average of $4,300 per year. “Preschool is too expensive, forcing many families to choose between paying for housing or providing a quality education for their kids,” he said, “which is why preschool has been a priority of my administration since day one.” 

Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero signed an executive order to expand the island’s Watching Over the Children of Guam Program, which provides $81.5 million in assistance to before and after school programs, extracurricular childcare providers, employer childcare assistance programs and community care programs. “These programs will help more parents rejoin and stay in the workforce,” she said. “In turn, local businesses, including the childcare industry and local non-profits, will increase employment and productivity and strengthen our economy.” 

Hawai’i Gov. David Ige announced the release of $275 million for Capital Improvement Projects, including a 10-million-gallon water reservoir, an expansion of the Kona Community Hospital, an upgrade of the Hawai’i Wireless Interoperability Network, as well as remediation and hazard mitigation work along shoreline areas at Sand Island State Recreation Area. “These investments in communities around the state provide the best and most direct way to drive our economy and create jobs for our people, and they help to improve the daily experience of our residents and those who visit Hawai’i,” he said.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed legislation to invest $325 million into Idaho’s water infrastructure. The funds will support water recharge infrastructure on the Upper Snake River and replace aging infrastructure for irrigation districts and canals to support agriculture. Idaho will also update old, less-efficient infrastructure and invest in technologies that improve efficiency to stretch water further. “With these one-time investments, we can increase our storage capacity to better withstand drought years,” Little said.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly signed the Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion Act (APEX), which aims to make the Sunflower State competitive at a national and global scale for large economic development projects by providing significant incentives to companies that invest at least $1 billion or open a national corporate headquarters in the state.   

Mariana Islands Gov. Ralph Torres signed legislation to develop the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors. One of the major projects the Council will take on is the Public and Private Partnerships Program, whose goal is to maintain and rehabilitate tourism and recreational areas.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte announced that the State of Montana is investing over $7.8 million in value-added agriculture projects. Thirty projects across the state will receive funds to assist with the development of agricultural business improvements. “Whether by bringing pasture to plate or grain to glass, value-added agriculture helps our ag producers capture more of the value they create,” Gov. Gianforte said.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak launched the Home Means Nevada initiative, the largest single investment in affordable housing in state history. The $500 million program will boost housing construction and homeownership opportunities, as well as help seniors retrofit their homes. "Affordable housing is a critical priority for Nevadans, and for my administration," Gov. Sisolak said.  

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation to create the New Mexico Housing Trust Fund, which is expected to generate an estimated $20-25 million annually and will provide a dedicated funding stream for the construction and maintenance of thousands of additional affordable homes for low- and moderate-income New Mexicans. “Providing greater access to stable and affordable housing will have profound and positive social implications that ripple throughout New Mexico communities,” she said. 

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum announced the availability of $15 million in grants to address the state’s workforce needs through the newly created North Dakota Regional Workforce Impact Program. As part of Burgum’s Accelerate ND plan, the program will offset the costs of designing and implementing programs to grow local workforces. “Workforce remains our No. 1 barrier to economic growth in North Dakota,” he said. “Strengthening our workforce through innovative, locally driven solutions supported by programs like RWIP will create a pathway to a stronger economy.” 

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt joined Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas to announce that their states have entered into a bipartisan three-state partnership to establish a regional hub for the development, production and use of clean hydrogen as fuel and manufacturing feedstock. “Like our partners,” Gov. Stitt said, “we believe that creating as many end-use cases for commercialization with as many private partners is the quickest and best mechanism to spur real demand for this clean energy.”

Oregon Gov Kate Brown signed legislation as part of her Future Ready Oregon investment package, which will focus on job training and apprenticeship programs in the manufacturing, healthcare and construction industries. It will also invest $100 million in childcare. “These dollars will help expand childcare access to serve more families and provide professional learning opportunities and higher compensation to develop and retain our amazing and talented providers.”

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signed legislation to address affordable housing shortages by investing $200 million in housing infrastructure that would otherwise be passed on to home buyers. “As new businesses come to our state, generating more and better-paying jobs, we need more career housing for the resulting growth in our workforce,” she said.  

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed legislation to increase the state’s education funding as well as fund teacher bonuses, a K-12 computer science initiative and centers to support students experiencing homelessness. “We applaud the record-breaking support for education this year,” Gov. Cox said. “This legislation represents a tremendous investment in our students, our teachers and our future, and we are so pleased to show our schools the love they deserve.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation known as ‘Move Ahead Washington’ to support the development of sustainable transportation networks by investing $16.9 billion over 16 years in major projects throughout the state, including $836 million to build four new hybrid-electric ferries and $150 million towards ultra-high-speed rail. “This package will move us away from the transportation system our grandparents imagined and towards the transportation system our grandchildren dream of,” he said.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon announced the creation of an energy development manager who will act as the go-between with companies, state agencies and policymakers to help Wyoming leverage new energy sector opportunities. “Wyoming’s energy industry has been the economic driver of this state for over sixty years,” said Governor Gordon. “This position will help us move into Wyoming’s new energy and technology frontier as strategically and efficiently as possible.”

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