In an Idaho Education News story published Nov. 29 on cdapress.com, a photo caption reads, “Gov. Butch Otter will unveil his 12th and final executive budget proposal on Jan. 8. It’s unclear whether the CEO proposal will make the cut.”
For the sake of all Idahoans, it needed to.
The CEO proposal — as IEN Reporter Kevin Richert explained back in November — was endorsed by seven Idaho business executives, including Coeur d’Alene’s Steve Meyer, who served on Gov. Otter’s 36-member task force on higher education. The recommendation, calling for an executive office to coordinate the work of all of Idaho’s higher education institutions and streamline day-to-day operations, came directly from the task force’s year-long research.
Otter on Monday called for the Legislature to fund the higher ed executive office proposal to break through the roadblock that now has well under half — 42 percent — of Idaho high school graduates going on to earn a certificate or degree. The state’s goal of 60 percent, the governor and task force members emphatically agree, is not attainable by continuing to do the things that got our state stuck at 42 percent for the past seven years or so.
Creating this office will reap significant return-on-investment soon and mind-boggling ROI a little further down the education highway. Consolidating functions that are duplicated on multiple campuses, areas like payroll, IT and human resources, could be phased in over time to avoid substantial disruption — but not too much time. Some of the immediate savings could go to scholarships and other forms of financial assistance, the lack of which is preventing some of our best and brightest from continuing their education.
Where will the additional efficiency get us eventually? According to the task force, $500 million a year in additional state income tax collections, without any change in population, if we can push that 42 percent “go-on” rate to 60. There would be that many more good jobs and that much more Idaho commerce generating the funding to bolster quality of life in our great state, from investing in badly neglected infrastructure to continuing to build up our education system.
This one recommendation probably won’t gain the attention of eliminating the tax on groceries, but we submit it is much, much bigger. The Press encourages Kootenai County legislators to explore this proposal rigorously, then lending their support. They could begin with the governor’s suggestion for a statewide degree audit and data analytics system to determine who needs the most immediate help to cross the finish line. Then Idaho can shift into a higher gear itself.