Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter kicks off the 2014 legislative session with his annual State of the State speech at this hour.
Otter's speech is heavy on education, and increasing education funding. He's also using the speech to coin a new idea, instead of K-12 education, Otter says the state needs to think of public education as K-Career. "It is a formula that emphasizes local autonomy and accountability as the keys to success not only for our schools but also for our communities, our economy, and most importantly for our students," Otter says.
The governor plans to spend $37.5 million more on K-12 funding during the 2015 fiscal year over the current budget year. That's a 2.8 percent increase over fiscal year 2014. Still, the increases will not include pay raises for Idaho teachers, says Otter's budget director Jani Revier.
Otter will also ask the Legislature to further reduce business equipment taxes. During the 2013 session, lawmakers partially repealed Idaho's personal property tax, exempting the first $100,000 worth of business equipment for companies across the state. Now, Otter wants that exemption to increase to $250,000.
The governor also makes a brief mention of "ratcheting down" individual and corporate income tax rates. They were last lowered in 2012.
On expanding Medicaid to more low-income Idahoans, Gov. Otter says his answer is still 'no'. In 2012, Otter assembled a group of healthcare stakeholders to study whether Idaho should expand Medicaid to people at 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The group said yes, but Otter, along with 22 other states held off. As of last spring, Otter said he would still consider expanding Medicaid, but the prospects for a 2014 expansion don't fare well.
More analysis is yet to come, here's a first look at Otter's speech and his priorities for the Legislature.
Correction: We originally reported Gov. Otter's budget includes $83 million in additional funding for K-12 education, when in fact the budget calls for a $37.5 million increase from fiscal year 2014-2015.