When Gov. Butch Otter addressed the Associated General Contractors winter meeting on Friday, Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey reports, he was clear about his biggest challenge in the coming year, and why it’s not increasing transportation funding or expanding Medicaid to 100,000 uninsured Idahoans. “Greatest challenge? Gettin’ me re-elected,” Otter told the group, joining in a big laugh. And, Popkey reports, that’s why Otter’s predicting a quick, relatively controversy-free legislative session, putting off the Medicaid debate for another year and launching a poll to see where Idahoans stand on road and bridge improvements, in advance of more debate later on, should he win a third term. Popkey’s full post is online here; click below for an AP version of Popkey's Sunday story on the planned poll.
Otter won't back plan to raise highway funds without show of public support
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter says he won't get behind a plan to raise revenue for roads and bridges without a show of support from the public.
Otter spelled out his conditions at a meeting of the Idaho Associated General Contractors in Garden City Friday.
"I doubt very, very much if in (2014) there will be an action — an action to the point of a legislative conclusion — meaning passage of those bills," Otter said.
The Idaho Statesman reported (http://bit.ly/18tE0CT ) the Republican governor is determined not to repeat his experience of two years ago with the public education initiative "Students Come First." That ambitious education overhaul was narrowly approved in the Legislature but overturned by voters the following year.
"If our process is anemic, if our process doesn't reach out and correctly identify the problem, then all I can tell you is I went through a miserable election night as we were losing all three of those" propositions, Otter said.
Otter also said a push to raise highway funds in 2014 coincides with his bid to seek a third term as governor.
Otter has not officially announced he's seeking a third term, but he's hired a campaign manager. Otter faces a primary challenge in state Sen. Russ Fulcher, a conservative lawmaker from Meridian who says he disagrees with Otter's decision to establish a state-run health insurance exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act.
The winner will face Anthony Joseph "A.J." Balukoff, who announced his candidacy Tuesday and so far has no Democratic rival in May's primary.
Otter asked the Idaho Associated General Contractors to help pay for a $45,000 poll to gage public support for additional highway revenue.
"I would hope that you folks would recognize that the information that we can get would be valuable to yourselves and your future direction and your future growth," Otter said. "My first priority is going to be: What does the public say about it? Do they understand exactly what we're trying to do?"
Wayne Hammon, executive director of AGC and Otter's former budget director, said contractors will help pay for the poll.
"All of us talk about it all the time, but we live in the bubble of the capital," Hammon said. "Out on the road do people see this as a problem? And if so, how big of a problem?"
Idaho has about 34,000 miles of local roads and 5,000 miles of state highways. A task force convened by Otter reported in 2010 that state and local highway funding fell $262 million short of meeting annual operation, preservation and restoration needs.
The 2014 Legislature begins Jan. 6.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press