Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said today that he expects a difficult legislative session. He spoke at the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho’s annual conference. The session will be a hard one, Otter said, “because of the decisions we have to make.”
The governor discussed what’s ahead for state education policy, given that voters resoundingly rejected the package of laws known as Students Come First. He predicted that elements of the failed laws will come back for consideration in 2013.
Gov. Otter also touched on the health insurance exchange and Medicaid expansion decisions that the state now faces, as well as the issue of personal property taxes. “I understand the plight of the counties,” the governor said, while indicating that he supports efforts to cut or phase out the tax. Some local taxing districts rely heavily on personal property tax revenue.
Here’s a recording of the governor’s full remarks:
The most interesting moment of Gov. Otter’s talk may have come during the brief time allotted for questions. Mike Ferguson, the governor’s former budget director, stood up and asked whether the state is meeting its constitutional requirements with respect to education funding.
Ferguson now heads the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy, and this spring authored a comprehensive report analyzing more than 30 years of state education funding. The Idaho Supreme Court found in 2005 that the state was not meeting its constitutional requirements. A recently filed lawsuit raises the question again.
Ferguson’s question begins at 22:30 in the above recording. It’s hard to hear, but this is what Ferguson asks: “Do you believe that the state of Idaho is maintaining a general, uniform and thorough system of public education, and, if so, how do you square that with the dramatic increase in unequalized property taxes to fund public schools in Idaho?”
The notable part of Gov. Otter’s response comes at the very end. “I would say that we’re probably not, but we’re doing the best job that we can. And we’re going to continue to do the best job that we can.”