In State of State, Otter Warns Against Tax Cuts That 'Undermine' Commitment to Meeting Essential Functions 

click to enlarge Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter - STATE OF IDAHO
  • State of Idaho
  • Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter
Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has already indicated he would like nothing more than to be in the nation’s capital as part of Donald Trump’s pending administration. Nonetheless, he was in Boise today, standing before the joint session of the 2017 Idaho Legislature to deliver his 11th State of the State address.

Otter faced a legislative body that reflected a growing Republican base—29 senators and 59 members of the Idaho House—and a thinning Democratic minority, with only six senators and 11 representatives.

Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke (R-Oakley) gaveled in the joint session at noon and, after about an hour’s worth of housekeeping, Otter was escorted into the chamber to deliver his annual address.

As expected, Otter began with proposals for education, including $58 million to continue implementing the so-called “career ladder” pay model for public school teachers and an ongoing investment of $2.5 million per year for leadership training of principals at low-performing schools.

“Looking beyond the recent challenges that we’ve experienced with teacher evaluations, this training will help ensure that school administrators can professionally, thoroughly and meaningfully assess teacher effectiveness and help guide their professional growth,” said Otter. He added that he was calling for an additional $15 million to “help school districts cover the cost of higher health insurance premiums for their employees.”

click to enlarge KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes
Turning to Idaho public universities and colleges, Otter said he was recommending the transfer of $35 million to the Permanent Building Fund for higher-education facilities, including $10 million for a Center for Material Science at Boise State; $10 million for the University of Idaho to build a Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment; $10 million for Lewis-Clark State College to build a Career Technical Education building in Lewiston; and another $5 million toward the remodel of the Gale Life Sciences Building at Idaho State University.

As he has in previous State of the State addresses, Otter again pushed for more funding to transition Eastern Idaho Technical College in Idaho Falls into a full-fledged community college.

In a not-so-subtle warning to Republican factions that have already indicated they will be pushing for tax relief, Otter cautioned lawmakers not to be overly hasty in a race toward tax cuts.

“I will not entertain anything that undermines our commitment to meeting our essential state government functions,” said Otter. “At the top of that list are our investments in improving education and career readiness in Idaho.”

Finally, Otter said while much of the nation awaited the threatened unwinding of the Affordable Care Act, he urged Idaho to find its own path away from Obamacare.

“I would encourage you to seek ways to make Idaho less dependent on the feds,” Otter said. “That includes continuing to build local partnerships and encouraging marketplace innovations.”

Otter said he looked forward to the incoming Trump administration, adding, “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.”
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