BOISE, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter painted an optimistic picture during his annual State of the State message to the Idaho Legislature Monday.
"Idaho is stronger and more economically diverse than ever," said Otter. "Our unemployment rate is near a record low. Wages are on the rise. Whole industry sectors are emerging and growing, stretching our taxpayer resources to keep up with workforce demands. But we are sustainably and responsibly investing in K-through-Career education and training without raising taxes."
Otter praised voters of Bonneville County for moving forward with plans to turn Eastern Idaho Technical College into the College of Eastern Idaho. He called it a a great new opportunity for more people to affordably expand their education close to home.
In addition to a health care plan he outlined in an executive order last week, Otter said his new budget will recommend funding for 11 new residencies at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls and Bingham Memorial Hospital in Blackfoot.
Otter said his budget would request $2.6 million in fiscal year 2019 to build three new crisis centers in Pocatello, Lewiston, and Nampa-Caldwell. "My Executive Budget request calls for continuing to build on the successful effort to cut back on the more costly use of emergency rooms and jail cells when our people face those life-shattering challenges," said Otter.
The governor also outlined a plan to standardize and optimize cyber capabilities throughout state government. "The proposed changes are aimed at making Idaho a model for hardening our defenses while enhancing our ability connect with citizens through social media and other online tools," he said. "Idaho is well situated to be a global leader in this field. Just consider our investment and partnership in the Idaho National Laboratory's Cybercore Integration Center. Or the INL's cybersecurity training outreach to Idaho businesses."
Otter said the state's partnership with INL on other projects, including the next stage of development in small modular nuclear reactor technology.
The governor concluded by encouraging lawmakers to move into the future saying, "The truest enemy of progress is misguided, reflexive opposition to change. That is not to dismiss or defame the timeless virtues that should populate our character or the undying truths that must light our path forward. Rather it is to remind us that our responsibility is not only to those who voted for us or only to our constituents, but also to "keep pace with the times" and the path of human progress."
"We have constitutional, legal and social responsibilities to the people of Idaho. Those include preparing them for productive citizenship with accessible educational opportunities, safe communities and equal protection of the law," Otter continued. "I believe the plan of action recommended in my Executive Budget and in the policies that will be presented to you this session move us closer to truly fulfilling that responsibility."