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State of the State Reax: Consider all Funding Options

January 11, 2011

BOISE, Idaho - Governor Butch Otter presented his list of proposed budget cuts during his combined State of the State and Budget Address Monday, with most of the reductions targeted at Medicaid coverage for adults.

He proposed about $20 million more for public education to help cover rising enrollment, and gave praise to teachers and parents for improvements in student performance.

Idaho Education Association president Sherri Wood says that, with stimulus and reserve funding gone for the next fiscal year, it will be tough to keep education funding level. And, she says, there was another point in the speech that raised eyebrows.

"We are perplexed by the Governor's call for radical restructuring for a system that they themselves call 'highly performing.'"

David Irwin, communications director with AARP Idaho, says he was encouraged to hear that the Governor wanted public input on budget decisions, and he's hoping all options are considered, besides just budget-cutting. AARP supports an increase in the cigarette tax to preserve Medicaid coverage.

"We have to guard against an 'efficient and effective' Idaho state government becoming a 'harsh and hurtful one,' Especially as so many Idahoans have seen, and continue to see, very difficult economic times."

The state budget shortfall has been forecast at more than $300 million, with some of that expected to be eased through economic growth. Gov. Otter is predicting three percent growth, but his Division of Financial Management is expecting more than double that rate.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - ID