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Politics & Government
C.L. “Butch” Otter has been a fixture of Idaho politics since 1973 when he was elected to his first term in the state House of Representatives.Otter was elected to his third-consecutive term as governor on Nov. 4, 2014. He was elected to his second term as Idaho governor on Nov. 2, 2010. Otter first became Idaho's governor on Nov. 7, 2006.Gov. Otter was at the helm during the peak of the Great Recession and it was his administration that oversaw the cutting of the state budget, record unemployment, and a boom in the number of people using government assistance.Otter spoke with StateImpact Idaho back in 2012 about that recession and its lasting impact on Idaho's workforce.Governor Otter: Every Generation Deals with Joblessness and We Live Through ItA Brief BiographyOtter, a Republican, is the longest serving lieutenant governor of Idaho, his tenure spanned from 1987-2000. In 2000 he was then elected to the United States Congress and served until 2006.According to the Washington Post, Otter voted with his party most of the time, 86 percent, but has been known to have an independent streak on some issues.“He was among three Republicans in the House to vote against the USA Patriot Act in 2001 and he later sponsored a bill to repeal parts of it. But independent streaks are sometimes tolerated in a state that would rather not be told what to do by the federal government.” - William Yardley, New York TimesOtter was born on May 3, 1942 in Caldwell, Idaho. He attended St. Teresa’s Academy in Boise and graduated from Boise Junior College (now Boise State University) with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1967.After college, Otter joined the Idaho National Guard and served in the 116th Armored Calvary until 1973.Butch Otter is married to his second wife, Lori. He has four children and several grandchildren.

Idaho Legislative Leaders React To A Budget That Cuts Taxes And Increases Spending

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Frankie Barnhill
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Boise State Public Radio
Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter delivered his 2015 State of the State speech in front of lawmakers Jan. 12, 2015.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's State of the State address on Monday put a lot of focus on a 7.4 percent increase in education spending. That's an increase of more than $101 million from the previous fiscal year, and a significant boost since the Great Recession.

"I think the education budget is a very ambitious budget," says Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert. "Now I don't know what the superintendent will ask for, but I'm applauding the governor for that ambitious budget."

When it comes to the state's higher education goals, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee co-chairman agrees there's a lot of work to be done.

"I do think we have to work on tuition and costs a little more in achieving those goals of getting 60 percent of Idahoans in some sort of post-secondary education or certification [by 2020]. A large factor -- I believe -- is cost," Cameron says. "So with those increases, we need to figure out ways that we are not incurring additional costs for kids and adults to attend college."

The governor's budget recommendation includes a 3 percent funding increase for colleges and universities, and a 1.5 percent increase for community colleges.

At the same time Otter pitched a big budget increase, he's also asking for tax cuts, including a decrease in the tax rate for the top income earners in the state. Otter wants to reduce this group's tax rate from 7.4 percent to 6.9 percent over five years. Cameron isn't sure the Legislature will take this issue on this session, but he agrees with the philosophy behind it.

"That's another aggressive feature of his proposal, although he takes it in bite-sized pieces over five years," he says. "And we need a competitive tax structure in order to continue to grow our economy which will continue to drive more tax revenue. So we need that to continue."

Gov. Otter is also asking lawmakers to eliminate Idaho's tax on business equipment, a tax the Legislature began exempting in 2013 for 90 percent of payers.

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, says she was happy to hear public education front and center in Gov. Otter's proposal. In addition to a big spending increase, Otter wants to boost pay for all public school teachers by 3 percent.

"We always want to talk about teacher pay because we want everyone in Idaho to have living wages and be competitive so we don't have [teachers] going outside our borders to better paying jobs and benefits," says Stennett. "So that discussion will need to continue, but I'm just really pleased about the initial steps and that the governor agrees with the task force recommendations and continues to do this ongoing plan we've all talked about."

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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