Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little signed legislation creating a Higher Education Stabilization Fund in a ceremony Monday in the governor’s office. The reserve fund for universities and colleges received broad support in the Legislature. Funding for higher ed wouldn’t increase substantially in the next budget, but Little and lawmakers said it would be a benefit down the road.
Little signed the legislation because Gov. Butch Otter is attending a Republican Governors Association meeting in Utah. Little called the $114,000 in interest earnings available due to approving the reserve fund a small amount, but said it’s a promise going into the future. State universities and colleges face a $32 million reduction in the budget proposed by legislative budget writers for the next year. Little said in the past, funding for higher education has been one of the first spending items in the budget to see reductions. “When times get tough, they are at the end of the ditch,” he said.
“This is a step forward,” said Rep. Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, who sponsored the reserve fund in the Idaho House of Representatives. He said lawmakers should have created the fund when they created a similar fund for public schools several years ago, but that this action is better late than never.
“It’s a shame we didn’t have this in place going into the recession,” said Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, the sponsor in the Senate. “It doesn’t provide anything this year, other than a very strong commitment.”
“Hopefully in the future, we’ll be able to fund this savings account,” said House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star.