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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

JFAC backs $5M boost to state’s college scholarships

Idaho Legislature's joint budget committee sets agency budgets on Thursday morning (Betsy Z. Russell)
Idaho Legislature's joint budget committee sets agency budgets on Thursday morning (Betsy Z. Russell)

There were three competing motions in JFAC on funding for scholarships, focusing on Gov. Butch Otter’s recommendation to increase funding for the Idaho Opportunity Scholarship next year by $5 million. Reps. Phylis King and John Gannon, both Boise Democrats, proposed doubling that to $10 million. Rep. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield, and Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, proposed trimming it to $3 million. Sens. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, and Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, proposed matching the governor’s recommendation.

King and Gannon’s motion failed on a 3-17 vote, with just Schmidt joining the two sponsors in supporting it. Miller’s went down on a 7-13 vote, drawing support from Nuxoll, Miller, Sen. Steven Thayn, and Reps. Maxine Bell, Rick Younblood and Jason Monks. Brackett and Schmidt’s motion passed 18-2, with just Nuxoll and Monks dissenting.

“I believe that there is a financial barrier to students going on to college in Idaho,” King told the committee, urging support for the larger boost. Gannon said, “If we’re going to have 60 percent of the kids go on to post-secondary education, that is a 50 percent increase in the number of students. … There is an obligation implied in that 60 percent goal that we will help the students.”

Miller called his smaller increase “prudent,” and said, “I think we all want to see increases, we all want to see the 60 percent goal. … We have a lot of bills out there.”

None of the three motions included any funding for the governor’s proposed Adult Degree Completion Scholarship, for which Gov. Butch Otter is recommending another $5 million. That bill has been stalled in the Senate, where it’s now awaiting a vote. If it passes, JFAC could pass a “trailer” bill, a bill that follows after the main budget bill, to fund it. However, Senate Education Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, said if it passes, “My inclination would be to make some kind of split of the $5 million, between Opportunity and Adult Completers,” rather than adding additional funding.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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