Minority Democrats from both the House and the Senate gathered today to give their response to Gov. Butch Otter’s State of the State message and budget proposals. Overall, they said they’re ready to work with the new GOP guv. “While we are Democrats and Republicans, in our hearts we are all Idahoans, and we want to make the best public policy for the broadest range of people,” said Senate Minority Leader Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum.
One sign of that already? “We spent a great deal of time yesterday, (House Minority Leader) Wendy (Jaquet) and I did, with the governor,” Stennett said. “We asked him for 10 minutes, and walked out an hour and 10 minutes later.” Jaquet added, “He said he’s unlocked all the doors, and he had.” The two said the new governor appears to be open to working with them. “He did give us his cell phone,” Stennett said. “That’s not something we’ve had from our previous governors.”
Stennett said Democratic caucuses will be guided by three “overriding values” this session: “Protecting Idaho’s way of life, standing up for the middle class, and making government more responsible and responsive to the voters.” He added, “We hope that despite some differences, our Republican colleagues will join with us in upholding these principles.”
He and Jaquet, D-Ketchum, outlined some of those differences, including the food tax (“Why don’t we just stop taxing food?” Jaquet asked), education (the Dems are focusing on early childhood education and Stennett said, “Unfortunately, Gov. Otter made no mention of the importance of this emerging key reform that is needed in Idaho’s education system”), and energy (Jaquet called for a focus on alternative energy sources and state oversight of power plant siting). The Democrats came out in favor of Otter’s proposal for community colleges, including allowing community college districts to be formed by a 60 percent vote, rather than a two-thirds supermajority, if the vote takes place at a general election. They also called for health care reform, a higher minimum wage and a ban on “shooter bull” operations, and opposed “massive tax giveaways to big business at the expense of the middle class.”