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Otter pushes to grow government with monster budget

Otter pushes to grow government with monster budget

Dustin Hurst
January 9, 2017
Dustin Hurst
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January 9, 2017

On Monday at the Idaho Capitol, Gov. Butch Otter kicked off the 2017 legislative session by asking lawmakers to approve a proposed 2018 behemoth budget request.

The governor’s request, which lawmakers will consider during the next six weeks before they set spending levels, asks for a 9 percent spending hike. Otter’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget seeks a total of more than $3.51 billion.

Otter’s budget includes significant new monies for K-12 public  school initiatives, including an additional $58 million for the state’s career ladder. The budget also adds $10 million for education technology, $6 million for professional development, $5 million for college and career counseling and $2.5 million to train administrators how to administer teacher evaluations.

Overall, Otter wants to add more than $104 million to K-12 schools.

If Otter has his druthers, higher education will see new funds flow its way.

The governor wants $35 million to build new facilities at Boise State University, the University of Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College. Plus, his budget asks for $3 million in new higher education scholarship dollars, $1.3 million to bolster community college student recruitment and retention, and $2.08 million to expand economic and workforce development at Boise State, among other items.

The governor’s budget offers little tax relief. Otter pledges to reduce the state’s unemployment insurance tax by $46 million, but provides no income or grocery tax reductions.

In his State of the State talk, Otter preached his commitment to fiscal discipline, but suggested new spending trumps any tax relief.

“I am committed as ever to limiting the size and growth of our state government, and we continue to make many efficiencies realized during the Great Recession as part of our standard operations,” Otter asserted. “But I also understand the costs of failing to invest prudently and sustainably in the future. So I will not entertain anything that undermines our commitment to meeting our essential state government functions.”

Beginning Tuesday, members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will consider Otter’s behemoth budget. Fiscal Year 2018 begins July 1, 2017.

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