Education funding was front and center Monday as the Idaho and Washington state legislatures convened for their 2016 sessions.
Idaho Republican Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter proposed significant increases in K-12 and higher education spending during his State of the State address Monday afternoon. Otter urged lawmakers to speed up the timeline for getting public school budgets back to pre-recession levels.
"This is the first time I felt since 2008, that I didn't come to the legislature with a State of the State apology for what we had to cut and what we couldn't do and where we couldn't do it,” Otter told reporters after his speech. “I believe it's because we stayed the course. We recognized what was nice and necessary in government. We recognized where we were anemic, whether it was in workforce development or whatever. We said how can we overcome that. Then we took a look at the resources we had and we said it is achievable."
Otter proposed to freeze college and university tuition for incoming freshman so they would pay the same rate for four academic years -- provided the students stay on track to finish with a degree in that time.
Overall, the governor is proposing an 7.9 percent increase in public school funding, an 8.8 percent increase in spending for four-year colleges and universities and a more than 9 percent funding increase for community colleges for fiscal year 2017.
Washington Democratic Governor Jay Inslee will deliver his State of the State address Tuesday.