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Otter endorses cuts in schools

BOISE - 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 Wednesday, 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 The Spokesman-Review, “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.”

Otter’s stimulus plan said, “Even this influx of taxpayer dollars from the federal government will be insufficient to keep education whole during our nation’s deepest recession since World War II.” He endorsed the $62 million in cuts to schools outlined earlier by state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna – who at the time dubbed them a list of “10 bad ideas” – and said he did so “with the hope that taking these reductions now will be sufficient to avoid deeper cuts in the future.”

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