Education funding took center stage at the Idaho Legislature this year – even bumping big new tax cuts from the favored top-priority position they occupied in recent years. Lawmakers nearly doubled Gov. Butch Otter’s proposed 2.9 percent increase in school funding, to $66 million; the cash infusion was an attempt to jump-start a series of reforms recommended by a state task force. They even ditched Otter’s call for $30 million in new tax cuts – and Otter agreed. “I think that they found a better use for the money than tax relief this year,” Otter said. “In their wisdom and in my conclusion, I think they made the right decision.”
Still, Idaho’s school funding remains below where it was in 2009; so does the state’s overall budget. After years of deep cuts during an economic downturn, lawmakers this year barely started restoring some of the services they cut then. You can read my session wrap-up story online here from Sunday’s Spokesman-Review. There’s also a list of bills that went partway but didn’t end up passing, from dumping the indexing of the homeowner’s exemption to designating a state amphibian.