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Idaho Legislative leaders hint at upcoming education fights


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BOISE — State lawmakers have publicly embraced increasing education spending, but on Monday, legislative leaders hinted that not everyone is on board with the governor’s K-12 or higher education requests.

Speaking to the Idaho Chamber Alliance, Speaker of the House Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill discussed Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter request to increase the public education budget by 7.9 percent.

Hill suggested lawmakers “probably won’t get all the way there, but we’ll probably be in the range of what we did last year.”

That’s still a sizable boost — during the 2015 legislative session, Idaho public schools saw a 7.4 percent increase, or about $101 million, according to Idaho Education News — but Hill’s statement hinted at some resistance within the Republican caucus to the amount of spending proposed by Otter.

Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, wasn’t surprised. “There is always (pushback) when we try to spend money on education.”

Otter’s tuition freeze, which would lock tuition rates at public colleges and universities for four years of school, received no endorsement at all.

“It made for a nice paragraph in the State of the State,” said Bedke, “but I’m not seeing legislators jump up and down for it.”

Ward-Engelking, who is a supporter of making college more affordable, echoed the pessimism. “It’s not looking good that we get it done this year,” she said.

This article was originally published at Idaho Reports. It is used here with permission.