Otter pledges continued support for education

Deep into his third and final term, Gov. Butch Otter told hundreds of business leaders Wednesday that he would continue to push for investments in public education.

Otter made the promise during an 18-minute speech to more than 500 members of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce at CenturyLink Arena.

Chamber executives promoted the luncheon as Otter’s annual address to the business community.

Continuing the theme from several of his major speeches over the past two years, Otter hammered home the connections between education, jobs and the economy.

He praised Bonneville County voters for approving a new community college, the College of Eastern Idaho, during last month’s election. He also credited his Task Force for Improving Education with developing a five-year reform plan that paved the way for increases in teacher pay, a focus on college and career readiness and added attention to the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math.

“You can expect my efforts on education are going to continue,” said Otter, earning a loud round of applause from the crowd. “My highest priority is, and will continue to be, building a more educated and skilled workforce.”

Time and again, Idahoans say education is their top priority. Those findings were confirmed by the People’s Perspective, a recent public opinion poll conducted by Idaho Education News and its funding partner, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation.

After a career serving in the Legislature, in Congress and as lieutenant governor and, finally, governor, Otter will not seek re-election when his term expires after 2018.

Otter didn’t mention the already-crowded 2018 Republican primary field or stump for his preferred successor, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, during Wednesday’s speech. Instead, Otter appeared interested in firming up his own legacy as he pledged to continue to work for Idahoans.

Next year, Otter said he will push the Legislature to continue to invest in the state’s public schools and urge lawmakers to lower the corporate and personal income tax rates by one-tenth of 1 percent.

Attendees at Otter’s speech included State Board of Education member Andy Scoggin, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and state Sen. Marv Hagedorn, a Meridian Republican who is running for lieutenant governor.