BOISE – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter broke down his recommendations for the budget, health care, education and more during his State of the State address today.
The governor's 7th State of the State was a 42-minute speech that included nine applause breaks and one standing ovation. It also included proposal to eliminate a commercial tax that takes over $140 million from the coffers of cities and counties around the state.
The biggest ovation of the day came after the governor honored the Idaho war fighters - both active and veterans - and new legislation he proposed that would give tax incentives for businesses to hire vets.
But his push to eliminate the state's personal property tax for businesses was made clear for the leadership of both houses.
"Of course your agenda already includes eliminating a personal property tax nearly everyone agrees is an unfair drag on our economy," Otter said.
But offsetting the $140 million hit to local cities and counties is where this debate will center on.
"My preference is granting local option taxing authority," Otter said.
Education reform continues to be a priority, but not in the manner it was attempted in previous sessions.
"I am neither calling for, or expecting, major school improvement measures this year,” Otter said. "I encourage you and all citizens to engage in that public discussion. It's our best chance to strengthen the foundation of our future.
The state-run medical insurance exchange option is another debate lawmakers will take up, and the governor laid out the reasons he is supporting the route over a federally-run alternative.
"And as responsible elected officials we're sworn to uphold the rule of law, not just those laws that we support," Otter said.
Otter’s agenda includes bricks and mortar in the form of a 579-bed mental health facility that would be built in a prison complex south of Boise. The Idaho Department of Correction is seeking permission to issue $70 million in bonds for the project. Otter pointed to the recent school shooting in Connecticut and said this project is something Idahoans should support.
“We all saw a few weeks ago the terrible impact on a community and a nation when mental illness leads to tragedy," Otter said. "We also must act where and how we can to reduce the risk."
Those recommendations will soon go to lawmakers for their consideration.