Otter pushes for Bonneville County community college

Bonneville County voters have the chance to replicate the Treasure Valley’s successful launch of a community college, Gov. Butch Otter said Friday.

Otter issued a guest opinion urging voters to approve a community college district in Tuesday’s election.

“(The College of Western Idaho) has grown faster than any community college in American history,” Otter wrote Friday. “Despite having a number of four-year public and private higher education institutions nearby, there was a huge pent-up demand for lower-cost, workforce-focused education and training programs.”

There are a few parallels between the May 2007 CWI vote and Tuesday’s vote in Bonneville County.

CWI received $5 million in state seed money for its launch. The 2017 Legislature earmarked $5 million to start up a Bonneville County community college, provided voters buy in.

And that buy-in doesn’t come easily. A community college has the authority to collect property taxes, so it takes a two-thirds supermajority to create a new community college district.

The Bonneville County proposal has divided prominent Republicans in one of the state’s staunch GOP strongholds. Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer supports the idea, as does Rep. Wendy Horman, a fellow Idaho Falls Republican who sits on the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. The county’s Republican Central Committee opposes the proposal.

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Check in Wednesday for full coverage of Tuesday’s school election results.