Friday, January 24, 2014

Make Idaho’s money work


    An alternative budget put together by Idaho’s former state economist, Mike Ferguson, demonstrates clearly that Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s proposed budget missed the boat on education.
    The alternative budget has supporters on both sides of the aisle, including former Superintendents of Public Instruction Jerry Evans and Marilyn Howard, a Re-publican and Democrat respectively. It’s also gotten the support of two members of the Governor’s Task Force for Improving Education.
    The alternative budget would power up education spending at a far higher rate than the governor’s proposal. It would re-duce by $71 million the amount of money targeted at boosting the state’s $291 mil-lion in Rainy Day funds. It would elimi-nate $30 million in tax relief. It would re-direct this money to funding education.
    Ferguson and the Idaho Center for Fis-cal Policy produced a report in 2012 that showed that Idaho’s public school funding had decreased significantly for 13 years because of tax cuts and increased funding of Medicaid.
    Today, Idaho ranks 49th of the states in funding education. It’s not a rank to be proud of especially when the nonprofit Education Week Research Center gives Idaho kids a mediocre C- grade in K-12 achievement.
    Gov. Otter has touted his efforts to move the Idaho economy to more than $60 billion. Now he should try to move the needle on the state’s dismal level of just one in four people with a bachelor’s de-gree.
    Socking away more money in savings and reducing taxes isn’t going to get the state the prosperous economy Idahoans want and need. With signs of economic recovery beginning in a state slammed hard by the national recession, it’s a time to fuel the recovery by producing better educated, innovative and resourceful citi-zens instead of squirreling away money that sits idly by.




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