Click below to read the memo Gov. Butch Otter sent to state agencies last week asking them to further trim spending and limit all "non-essential activities wherever possible." In his luncheon talk to the Associated Taxpayers today, Otter said, "Folks, we are going to have a tough session - it's going to be tough because, obviously, we don't have the kind of money that we've had in years past." He noted that the amount of money Idaho will have for its budget next year is comparable to what the state had back in 2003-2004. So he's told state agency heads to go back and look at what they were doing then. Anything that's been added since then, he said, should perhaps be eliminated, unless it's required by law or the constitution. "That wasn't a mandate - it was a suggestion," Otter explained after his speech. "That would be the low-hanging fruit."
He also said cuts are unavoidable. "The only other means is to raise taxes, and I tell you, in this environment I believe there is little appetite in the state legislature," Otter declared. He went on to directly criticize a proposal from Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, for a temporary income tax surcharge on those earning more than $50,000 a year, as something that could "divide by class warfare," and said, "I don't want to see that happening in the state of Idaho. ... Those who are successful ought to be celebrated and rewarded. ... I resist the effort to start class warfare." He also derided the idea of temporary tax increases, like the temporary sales tax hike enacted under former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne. A year and a half after the temporary tax increase expired, lawmakers decided to raise the tax again, this time permanently, to fund property tax relief. "Let's be honest about the history," Otter said. "Putting a new tax on is like getting a tattoo, folks. You don't get rid of it without some serious trauma."
From: Governor Otter
Sent: Thu Nov 12 16:10:57 2009
Subject: Weekly Message
C.L. “Butch” Otter
November 12, 2009
M E M O R A N D U M
TO: Cabinet and Staff
FROM: Governor Otter
SUBJECT: Weekly Message Points
I want to commend each of you and your employees for the hard work that your departments, agencies and institutions are doing in our effort to balance the State budget. As you are aware, unemployment and other economic pressures continue dragging down State revenues. As trustees of the people’s tax dollars, we must be steadfast in our resolve to build a government that lives within their means.
In late September I announced a three-part plan for meeting the challenges of the current fiscal year. The 4-percent holdback and “rainy day” transfers that made up steps one and two addressed more than $99 million of the anticipated $151 million shortfall. However, there remains an estimated $52 million deficit that must be resolved prior to the end of the fiscal year.
With an eye toward caution, I strongly encourage each of you to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that your area of responsibility does all it can to minimize expenses of all types.
While I am not announcing specific additional holdback requirements at this time, I am directing each agency administrator to limit all purchasing, travel, conferences, training and other non-essential activities whenever possible.
I also am strongly encouraging you not to take any actions that increase salaries or the size of the State workforce. And please take a critical look at any membership costs associated with professional, intergovernmental or other organizations to which you belong. I also am eliminating some of my office’s memberships, effective immediately.
In conclusion, let me once again state my appreciation and empathy for each of you and your employees. I understand that implementing these instructions may be difficult, but I assure you they are necessary. These difficult times will make us all tougher, stronger, more flexible, and more durable. I deeply appreciate your leadership and commitment. Please pass along my best wishes to each member of your staff.
As Always – Idaho, “Esto Perpetua”
C.L. “Butch” Otter
Governor of Idaho