Idaho governor to remain focused on education in 2018

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter announced Wednesday he's once again committed to growing and improving education in Idaho as he prepares for the 2018 legislative session.

"I'm going to be going to the Legislature to structurally change exactly how we run higher education in the state of Idaho," Otter said while speaking annual conference of Associated Taxpayers of Idaho.

The popular event attended by hundreds of lawmakers, lobbyists and top business officials is often used by Otter and other lawmakers to highlight the upcoming policy priorities of the Republican-dominant Legislature.

Otter, however, maintained his long-held tradition of not revealing any exact details of his plans until his State of the State address to lawmakers on Jan. 8. The three term Republican is preparing to enter his final legislative session since becoming governor in 2007.

Instead, Otter only hinted at what to expect come January when lawmakers are back in Boise. This included Otter promising that his plans would help the state reach its 2010 goal of getting 60 percent of Idaho's young adults to complete a post-secondary degree or certificate by 2025.

Roughly 40 percent of Idaho's residents between the ages of 25 and 34 have completed post-secondary education. The statistic has been incrementally decreasing since 2012 and officials were recently forced to push back their deadline of meeting the 60 percent goal from 2020 to 2025.

Otter's turn to higher education also stems from a 35-member task force he appointed in January to study postsecondary access and completion. The group has since submitted 12 possible changes to Otter, who has not yet weighed in on their recommendations but could do so during the State of the State address.

Idaho is currently implementing recommendations from a separate task force focused on K-12 education. In 2013, Otter created the working group after the defeat of several high-profile educational voter referendums supported at the time by Otter and other top elected education officials.

The task force's work eventually resulted in 20 educational reforms that are in the fifth year of execution This includes a multi-year effort to boost teacher pay designed to retain and attract educators

Otter took a brief moment to step away from education to warn the audience on Wednesday he remains firmly against removing the sales tax on groceries. Otter vetoed legislation earlier this year that would have repealed the so-called grocery tax, but it resulted in a lengthy legal battle. The Idaho Supreme Court eventually upheld Otter's veto, but repeal supporters have vowed to renew their efforts in 2018.

"I hope we don't have to go through what we went through last year because I feel very certain that that is probably the most stable and predictable source that we have," Otter said.

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