Gov. Butch Otter is speaking to the Idaho Press Club this morning, in his annual on-the-record appearance before the group. Asked about the Idaho Education Network and the possibility that the state may have to pay as much as $26 million to replace federal e-rate funds due to problems with the contract award for the network, Otter said, “One thing about it, the IEN has proved its value. It’s proved its value in many ways.”
He said, “Probably the IEN has come closer to accomplishing a uniform system of common schools, because of the fact that we can get those great teachers and those great courses that were denied to rural Idaho before.”
Otter said the feds withholding the millions in e-rate funds “isn’t unusual to happen.” He said, “There was a very stringent and very narrow authority over that money, so when any question arises … they just stop it.” Otter said, “We were informed of what was going on. We knew all along. The federal government is slow pay. … Usually we go through these cash flow problems, and that’s not unusual.”
He noted that the state has won on “five of the six issues” in the lawsuit over the contract award. However, the sixth issue, the one on which the Idaho Supreme Court allowed the lawsuit to proceed, was whether the contract award violated state purchasing rules.
Asked if he still consults with former Department of Administration Director Mike Gwartney on the issue, Otter said, “Once in a while I’ll go back and say, ‘What happened here, what happened there. But Teresa Luna is running the shop now, and I consult with Teresa Luna.”
“We thought by now we would have all of the questions … resolved as we have resolved in the past, and we have then been caught up,” the governor said. “We still anticipate that it’s not going to cost us the $26 million. We still anticipate that we’re going to satisfy, as we have five of the six charges, that we did the right thing, and that we are deserving of those funds.”