Critics from across the political spectrum wasted no time picking apart Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's Jan. 9 State of the State address, in which he unveiled a proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget that topped $3.6 billion—the majority to be spent on education.
Democratic leadership offered some faint praise for what they called Otter's "strategic vision" of ensuring 60 percent of Idaho high-school graduates attain some kind of higher education, but quickly added that they doubted the governor was capable of convincing his own party to buy into that vision.
"The State of the State made it clear that Gov. Otter has heard how important education is for the future of Idaho," said House Minority Leader Rep. Mat Erpelding (D-Boise). "But it's apparent that our economic growth will become increasingly constrained by the lack of strategic vision and leadership from the majority party."
Otter proposed an additional $15 million be earmarked to help school districts cover the cost of higher health insurance premiums for district employees, but the Idaho Education Association—representing thousands of teachers in every corner of the Gem State—has fronted another plan. Instead of a new line item for insurance costs, IEA proposed districts should see an increase to their discretionary budgets, "allowing districts the control and flexibility to fund health care costs and other priorities as they see fit."
Otter's harshest criticism came from the right-leaning Idaho Freedom Foundation, whose executive director called the governor's FY 2018 budget a "behemoth."
"Idahoans deserve the conservative government they voted for," said IFF Executive Director Wayne Hoffman. "The governor's budget doesn't deliver on that. His budget grows government by nearly 9 percent and offers zero tax relief."
When Hoffman fired off his State of the State reaction to IFF members, he also took the opportunity to solicit more donations for the organization.
"We need to fight harder for the conservative principles we hold dear," Hoffman wrote to his members. "Donate $20.17 to help IFF fight for these principles."