Gov. Butch Otter is endorsing the first-ever cuts in public schools funding in Idaho, saying the $1.24 billion in federal economic stimulus funds he’s decided to accept aren’t enough to stave off the cuts. Otter, who released his recommendations for taking the stimulus money late today, also called for sticking to plans lawmakers endorsed earlier – before the federal stimulus bill passed – to cut 5 percent across the board from personnel costs statewide.“The governor recommends keeping this necessary cost-cutting measure in place in all agency budgets drawing from the general fund,” his stimulus plan said.
Asked on Tuesday about the prospect of cutting schools when the state stands to receive a big boost from the stimulus, Otter told Eye on Boise, “Yeah, sure it bothers me, but I understand why. Because these are all ongoing needs and they can’t all be satisfied by this one-time plug of money.” Otter said he liked the idea of keeping reserve funds intact, despite making the cuts to schools. “It’s still good to have that rainy-day fund – it’s still good to have that equalizer between what-if and what-if-not,” he said. “And I’m still convinced that this thing isn’t going to be over with in just one or two years.”