BOISE – Tax cuts may have been a major highlight of the 2018 legislative session, but for Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, education funding, reading comprehension and higher education access topped the list.
Speaking at his 12th and final post-session press conference Thursday, Otter pointed to a dozen education-related accomplishments before he even mentioned the $130 million in tax relief approved this year.
Topping the list was the $100 million increase in public school funding – the fourth consecutive increase of that magnitude.
The funding includes $42 million for the fourth year of the five-year “career ladder” teacher pay plan, as well as another $10.5 million for classroom technology and an $8 million increase in funding for dual-credit classes and other advanced opportunities.
Otter also applauded the statewide rollout of a new, computer-based reading assessment program, and the added funding for the Idaho Opportunity Scholarship.
“Expanding criminal penalties for willful threats of violence directed at schools, facilities, buses, staff or students” was another highlight, he said, as was the start-up funding for the new College of Eastern Idaho, “the second community college created in Idaho in the last 12 years.”
The governor pointed to his workforce development and cybersecurity efforts, as well as the funding for three more mental health crisis centers – including one in north central Idaho – before he got around to mentioning tax relief.
On a final note before opening it up for questions, Otter referred to a front-page item in the Wall Street Journal talking about Idaho leading the nation in personal income growth.
“The word is out,” he said. “I suspect we’ll be at the top of the herd for quite a while.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise, gave the 2018 session an A grade, saying he was “proud of the record we put together, with tax relief and funding education.”
Winder also credited Otter, whom he’s known since his college days, with positioning the state well for the future.
“I think he did an admirable job in making education his legacy,” Winder said. “When you look at the funding increases and policy changes, it was a great run for three terms.”
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