Monday, January 6, 2014

Otter's State of the State: 'No' to Medicaid Expansion, 'Yes' to Restoring Ed Funds

Posted By on Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 2:29 PM

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, in his State of the State Address Monday afternoon before a joint session of the Idaho House and Senate, asked for lawmakers' support for "my key proposals in the coming year and beyond."

But voters will have the final say on that "beyond" part, as Otter's political future will be defined when he faces opposition in the November general election and even a primary challenge from within his own party this May.

In his 40-minute address, Otter breezed through a list of boilerplate issues: education, health care reform, water resources and wolves, while stopping along the way to give his thanks to Idaho veterans, the recently retired director of the Idaho Department of Labor and the first woman to serve on the Idaho Potato Commission.

Among the highlights:

- Otter said that he would "love to see a third year" of tax relief, but he asked the Legislature to temper their zeal for tax cuts with restoring education funding to pre-recession levels.

- He said "no" to Medicaid expansion in Idaho, at least for now. "We should not jump into the deep end without knowing what's on the bottom," said Otter. "So for this year, and until we are better positioned and prepared to succeed on our own terms, my answer remains: not this year."

- He reiterated his support for the Idaho Core Standards.

- Pledged to have every Idaho public elementary and middle school to be a part of the state's broadband Internet education system by 2015.

- Agreed that the University of Idaho's law school program should be funded to provide classes in Boise for second-year students.

- Proposed setting aside $35 million in the Budget Stabilization Fund, $29 million in the Public Education Stabilization Fund, and $7 million in the Higher Education Stabilization Fund.

- Proposed a one-time $15 million investment in select communities' water supply improvement projects.

- Proposed one-time spending of $2 million for the creation of a Wolf Control Fund, with ongoing costs covered by annual contributions from the livestock industry and sportsmen.

House and Senate committee meetings begin at the Statehouse early Tuesday morning, Jan. 7, and the full House and Senate will reconvene later in the day.

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