Education and the Economy
In Governor Otter’s State of the State address, education continues to be the top priority. His education budget includes $104,200,000 in funding for recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force for improving education. This funding is the third year of the 5-year funding K-12 plan which includes $58,000,000 for the career ladder for certified instructional employees and pupil service staff. Unfortunately, pre-K or early learning was not mentioned.
Modeling the K-12 plan, the Governor asked the State Board of Education to lead a new task force to develop a 5-year plan for higher education. The goal is to have 60% of Idahoans between the ages of 25 and 34 attain a post-secondary degree or certification by 2020 (only 25% do today). This is particularly important as Idaho’s Department of Labor projects employment to increase by 3% in 2017. The strong growth in STEM occupations will require technical and professional skills for future economic prosperity, including our counties struggling with high unemployment. The K-Career plan includes professional development, college and career counseling, professional-technical training (trades), and an adult basic education program to transition underprepared adults into college and meaningful employment.
Idaho’s state-based insurance exchange for healthcare covered more than 76,061 in the first year, the third highest per-capita enrollment in the nation, and 109,000 Idahoans have gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately, 78,000 Idahoans, including around 10,000 veterans, fall into the coverage gap, the majority of whom are working and have children at home. We must remember that the uninsured population is a huge burden on our counties and to our taxpayers when they end up in the emergency room. But healthcare for the gap population has stalled in the legislature, waiting for action from the new administration in Washington, D.C.
Cyber threats have enormous implications for infrastructure such as government security, public safety, energy grids, industrial control systems, and military operations. In addition, the Idaho Fish & Game had a license data breach of personal information this past summer. In an effort to heighten your safety, the state is partnering with the Idaho National Laboratory and the state’s three universities to bolster cybersecurity. Additionally, the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security, part of the Idaho Military Division and guided by Colonel Brad Richy, is tasked with working closely with local government authorities to address disaster response and emergency preparedness throughout Idaho. This team is working hard to safeguard your privacy.
I want to welcome our new, immensely talented Chief-of-Staff, Caitlin Lister and all our attachees and interns. They are an integral, important part of our work in the Capitol.
Sadly, our wonderful former Chief-of-Staff, Diane Kelly passed away in November 2016.
Feel free to contact me with questions or concerns phone or email.