A budget to fund the state’s four- year public universities and colleges has cleared the Idaho House and now heads to the desk of Gov. Butch Otter.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls, passed on a 47-21 vote.
The bill would provide $209 million in state funding for public universities and colleges in fiscal year 2012. That amount is a $7.6 million reduction from fiscal year 2011.
Though state support dropped, budgets for universities and colleges increased by about 5 percent, thanks to the addition of various dedicated funding measures, including student fees. In fiscal year 2011, this budget received $377.6 million in total funding, a number that will jump to $396.7 million in fiscal year 2012.
Many lawmakers said that the budget will lead to higher tuition and the exodus of good professors to higher-paying institutions of higher education.
GOP Rep. Tom Trail of Moscow said that Idaho is becoming a “minor league” of education and that talented teachers are not interested in staying in the Gem State for the long haul. “We are just not adequately supporting higher education,” said Trail.
Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, pointed out that businesses often open new operations in areas of the country that are able to provide an educated workforce. With continual education cuts, King argued, businesses might we wary to move to the Gem State. “We are not providing that [an educated workforce] when we cut education,” said King.
Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said “our best and brightest are leaving us” because of cuts. He said that the state is not funding enough education to keep up with the global economy. “America must be No. 1, but we are not doing our job,” said Burgoyne.