Otter doubles down on education priorities

Speaking to hundreds of business leaders Monday, Gov. Butch Otter repeated his call to make education the state’s top priority.

Otter delivered his remarks during the Idaho Chamber Alliance’s annual legislative meeting in Boise. His 38-minute speech struck similar notes to his State of the State speech, delivered exactly two weeks earlier.

But this address was more personal and less formal. In addition to stressing the connections between education and the work force, Otter voiced support for President Trump, whose inauguration he witnessed Friday in Washington, D.C.

“No. 1 is education, and has been for me for a long time,” Otter said. “Coming from a family of nine kids, I was the only one who got to go on to college.”

Otter kicked off the legislative session Jan. 9 by calling for lawmakers to increase education funding by 6.4 percent in 2017-18.

During his chamber speech, Otter said the Legislature shares his priority for education.

“There isn’t a legislator out 105 — that I know — that doesn’t put importance on education,” Otter said. “Maybe the way to achieve it is a different way, but I would tell you, they want to achieve it.”

While Otter promoted his education agenda and the proposed ballot initiative to turn Eastern Idaho Technical College into a full community college, he did not assign similar significance to tax cuts.

Otter plugged his proposal to lower the unemployment insurance tax by $46 million. “I hope, too, that will manifest itself in new buildings (and corporate investment).”

But while some House members are pushing for additional tax cuts, Otter highlighted his work with the Legislature to reduce the corporate and top personal income tax rates to 7.4 percent.

Otter said he is “bullish” on Trump’s agenda.

“I don’t know if y’all got a chance to listen to the speech. I heard time and time again how things are going to change in Washington, D.C. If I ever saw a place that needed change, that was it.”

Otter served in Congress from 2001 to 2006.

Once again — as he did in front of the Statehouse press corps Jan. 6 — Otter expressed disappointment that Trump did not appoint him to his cabinet.

Otter said “I would have really liked to be” named agriculture or interior secretary. Otter said those agencies’  rules “have been a pain in my side.” As a result, he said, “the state of Idaho has been adversely affected.”

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