Otter opens Idaho legislative session with eye on education

Posted at 5:44 PM, Jan 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-10 18:13:55-05

Idaho Governor Butch Otter officially opened the 2017 legislative session Monday afternoon.

Otter focused his speech on the need for improvements in Idaho's education system.

"It is our duty as elected leaders to preserve and protect the steady framework of opportunity that the people of Idaho need in order to confidently pursue their dreams and freely express their civic virtue," Otter said. "That's why such a large share of the executive budget recommendations you have before you continue addressing our five-year plan for improving Idaho's public schools."

Otter made numerous budget recommendations to improve education in the state including allocating $10 million a year more to fund technology in Idaho's classrooms and $5 million a year for expanding and improving college and career counseling in Idaho high schools.

"Based on our rising college enrollment rate, that kind of investment is helping more students, parents and educators determine the most appropriate options for enabling young people to "Go On" to higher education or career-technical training and certification," he said.

Otter says he fully supports the campaign to turn Easter Idaho Technical College in Idaho Falls into a full-fledged community college, and also encourages residents in Ada and Canyon counties to throw their support behind the expansion of the College of Western Idaho.

"CWI is bursting at the seams, with an enrollment of 20,000 students just eight years after opening with 1,200," he says. "The employers who provide jobs and tax revenue here in the valley are relying on your help to meet the need."

Otter also highlighted tax relief for Idahoans as a legislative priority in the 2017 session.

"I would remind you that together we have reduced the tax burden on our citizens during my tenure by about $1 billion," he says. "And you soon will have legislation before you to cut the base tax rate for unemployment insurance paid by Idaho employers by 6.3 percent this year. That's $46 million in tax relief in the coming year alone and $115 million over three years."

Concerning health care and expanding the Medicaid gap in Idaho, the Governor is taking a "wait and see" approach.

"While few people know just what to expect from the President-elect or his Cabinet, I am far more hopeful than anxious about the promise of a new and better day in the relationship between the federal government and the states," Otter says. "Dealing with Obamacare should be only the start."