Batt’s Bane Wasted Money, Wasted Time
A scene from Sea-Tac airport early in Phil Batt’s long-shot 1994 campaign foreshadowed the kind of Idaho governor he’d be.
He and his wife, Jacque, were waiting in line for Morris Air’s $49 seats and a return flight to Boise. They’d brought along food for the trip, too: two bags of peanuts.
Batt often has boasted: “I’m a natural tightwad, and I’m going to prove it.”
Idahoans, who like many countrymen are tired of ever-increasing taxes, bureaucracy and regulation, glimpsed what it means to have a tight-fisted governor this week when Batt outlined his agenda in his first State of the State speech.
The speech oozed common sense.
First, Batt recognized that voters aren’t in love with his supermajority Republican Party. Rather, they opted for the Republicans’ promise of leaner government and tax relief.
And Batt plans to deliver on those promises.
On Monday, he promised a major tax relief package that will save property-tax payers $58.5 million statewide: $40 million in direct relief and $18.5 million as a result of the state assuming responsibility for catastrophic health care bills.
That isn’t peanuts.
Additionally, he wants to cap growth of property taxes as well as valuations - the double whammy that is chasing people from their homes in high-growth areas such as Kootenai and Bonner counties. He also wants to make sure that property tax circuit-breakers, for elderly people of limited means, keep up with inflation.
Secondly, Batt struck an important chord when he ordered state departments to cut unnecessary spending. He wants scrutiny not only of new spending proposals, but also of existing maintenance and operation budgets.
To Batt’s credit, nothing’s off limits.
He plans to establish a task force to find waste in education spending and challenged the State Board of Education to consider moving toward a one-university system to save administrative costs.
Batt sent good signals, too, by recognizing the economic value of Idaho’s forest and mining industries, by promising to do everything possible to keep Micron’s $1.3 billion expansion in Idaho, and by directing the Commerce Department to work with five Indian tribes to improve economic conditions on the reservations.
Batt’s tune hasn’t changed much in his 30 years of public service.
In fact, the first comment he made as a freshman legislator on the floor of the House could serve as his battle cry today: “Let’s get this show on the road, I’m tired of wasting time and money.”
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board