BOISE - Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's top priority for Idaho lawmakers is to focus on education in 2017.
Otter announced his short wish list during his annual State of the State address Monday afternoon.
The Republican governor proposed a 4.6 percent increase - roughly a $189 million funding bump - to the state's overall budget. More than 60 percent of that would go toward education, including more funding for teacher salaries and higher education facilities.
However, there was no announcement for a plan to address the state's lack of transportation funding, nor did he give a detailed cut tax proposal. Both topics are expected to be debated by Idaho lawmakers as they spend next few months setting the state's budget.
Instead, Otter said that he is committed to limiting the growth of government but not at the expense of providing essential government services.
Otter proposes adding residency seats
Gov. Otter says his top priority is education during the 2017 legislative session.
However, the Republican governor also wants to expand Idaho's medical residency positions throughout the state.
Idaho's first medical school is currently being developed on Idaho State University's Meridian campus. With it, organizers say the need for more residencies in Idaho is crucial. That's because typically medical students participate in clinical clerkships or rotations during their third and fourth years of school, and then seek residencies once they graduate.
Otter recommends spending $2.4 million to add 25 new residency seats.
There are currently about 120 residencies available in Idaho.
Idaho Democrats want more attention on education
Idaho's Democratic lawmakers praised Gov. Otter for his focus on education in annual State of the State address Monday, but criticized the overall lack of attention to early childhood funding and providing health care to the estimated 78,000 Idahoans without insurance coverage.
The Idaho Legislature is controlled overwhelmingly by Republicans, but does include a handful of Democrats inside both chambers.
House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding said he was disappointed legislative leaders are already estimating adjourning March 24 instead of focusing on the needs of Idahoans.
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