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Eye On Boise

WEDNESDAY, JAN. 16, 2008, 9:21 A.M.

NIC prez gives first budget pitch

New North Idaho College President Priscilla Bell gave her first budget pitch to legislators on JFAC this morning, and won praise for her confident, dynamic presentation. “Thank you, Dr. Bell – you did remarkably well,” Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron told her. “I don’t think we are intimidating at all to you.”

She made a pitch for several items that Gov. Butch Otter didn’t recommend funding – a $307,500 campus technology upgrade and development of a new joint program with Spokane Community Colleges to train students in the hot fields of cardiovascular technology and aviation mechanics. “They’re very close to us and they have some programs we need,” she said. “Job growth in those areas is explosive. We have no programs in North Idaho.” But starting them up from scratch would cost “hundreds and hundreds of thousands,” she said. “So let’s give collaboration a chance.”

That proposal would only cost the state $115,000 next year, but Cameron and Co-Chair Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, said such funding will be hard to find. “The governor’s budget is a very tight budget,” Cameron said. “He’s done a pretty good job with it. … The dilemma is there’s only about $300,000 left. … So in order for us to find funds for programs like that, we’ve got to reduce his budget somewhere else. Although we do that … it’s going to be a difficult proposition.”

Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, said employers are demanding programs from the college. “I think we need to look at any opportunity to provide those programs,” he said. “These educational challenges and needs are more than just, ‘It’s nice to have a well-educated community.’ They’re central to sustaining our success in economic development.” North Idaho has been successful in recruiting new employers, Hammond said. “We’ve got to be able to provide them with employees to do the work that they need done.”

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Eye On Boise

Short takes and breaking news from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.