Gov. Butch Otter, in his annual address to the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce today that’s billed as the “Governor’s Address to the Business Community,” had this message: “Our continued focus has got to be on education, because that’s our future, because that’s our economy.”
Otter said the reason that this year’s Legislature approved a 7.4 percent funding increase for public schools and a five-year career ladder teacher pay plan was because “we knew that there was a direct correlation between an educated workforce and the health of the economy.” He told the crowd of several hundred, “We know as business people that the next generation of your products, of your services, of your ability to manage your business, is sitting around in a classroom someplace today.”
Otter also praised the state’s new STEM Action Center, which will open July 1 as a division of his office, to coordinate STEM education and workforce needs. “That was the brainchild of Reed DeMordaunt, the House education chairman, and Sen. Bob Nonini from Coeur d’Alene,” Otter said. “They put that idea together with the help of many of you here including the Idaho technology center.” Science, technology, engineering and math are “what you are demanding,” Otter told the audience of business people. “That’s what the future workforce has got to be proficient in.” He said the new center will be “up and running by the first of July.”
He touted favorable economic news about Idaho from national magazines, and noted that state tax revenues have come in well above projects this year, meaning this year’s surplus-eliminator bill will put more money than expected into transportation projects and state savings accounts.
“We’re growing, and why shouldn’t we be?” Otter asked. “Those are pretty impressive figures, and they didn’t happen by accident.” He said Idaho’s created an attractive environment for business in part by lowering taxes over the last few years.