As Gov. Butch Otter left his State of the State speech, after talking with the media, he got into an impromptu debate with House Democratic leaders over his budget proposal. First, House Assistant Minority Leader James Ruchti, D-Pocatello, said with Idaho families struggling, “This is not a time to raise taxes in Idaho.” Otter challenged Ruchti and House Minority Leader James Rusche, D-Lewiston, saying they were “mixing apples and oranges,” and said, “Are you suggesting we take money out of transportation and put it into social services? … So where are ya going to find the money?” The three engaged in a spirited back-and-forth debate, then agreed there’s plenty of debate ahead, before Otter moved on down the crowded hallway at the BSU Special Events Center. Passing Ricardo Ochoa of Idaho Public Television, Otter said in Spanish, “Mucho trabajo, poco dinero,” or lots of work, little money.
Rusche said House Democrats are concerned about seeking a tax hike for transportation while cutting education, and favor spending the state’s rainy-day funds instead. “Is this the right time?” he asked about the transportation funding push. “We just think that the priorities are off - it looks like a lose-lose to me.” Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, echoed that later, back at the Capitol Annex. “It’s an odd set of priorities, in my mind, to be willing to raise taxes for roads but not for school kids,” she said.