Eye On Boise

Otter’s hard line softens over time

Gov. Butch Otter vetoed dozens of hard-fought, successful budget bills this year to make his point to lawmakers that he wanted action on his transportation proposal. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)
Gov. Butch Otter vetoed dozens of hard-fought, successful budget bills this year to make his point to lawmakers that he wanted action on his transportation proposal. (Betsy Russell / The Spokesman-Review)

When Idaho Gov. Butch Otter was a legislator back in the ’70s, he was precisely the sort of outspoken, no-new-taxes, shrink-government conservative as those in the House who stymied his transportation initiative this year. Now he can’t understand why the young lawmakers don’t get his point in pushing for a gas tax increase – that transportation is a proper role of government, and it’s pay now or pay more later. “I believe we have made the case so the need cannot be denied,” Otter said. “If I weren’t absolutely convinced that we needed the money … I wouldn’t be asking.”

Not that he would’ve gotten the point back then. He ran for governor in 1978 calling for returning the state to budget levels of 1964. Otter, clearly, has evolved. “Over the stretch of three decades, a few things change,” said Idaho political historian Randy Stapilus. “For one thing, Butch is not in a position now to declaim an ideology or a stance and leave it at that – he actually has to govern.” You can read my full story here in Sunday's Spokesman-Review.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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