January 14, 1995 in Nation/World

Gop Ready To Make Good On Contract But Democrats Say The Plan Is All ‘Phony Junk’ In Historically Conservative Idaho

Dean Miller Staff writer

Idaho Republicans say they are poised to deliver on the promises they made in the “Contract with Idaho” candidates signed in the heat of last fall’s campaign.

The 10-point plan is a familiar mix of proposals to make government smaller and cheaper, unfetter business growth, resist federal intrusions and offer conservative solutions to social problems.

“We have all the tools in place and I think we’ve got the hearts that are willing to do everything that was on that contract,” said Rep. Tom Dorr, R-Post Falls.

But Democratic leaders say the GOP contract leaves them scratching their heads.

“It isn’t comparable to Congress,” said Sen. Mary Lou Reed, D-Coeur d’Alene, chairman of the Senate Democratic caucus. “If anything is wrong in Idaho, the Republican Legislature has been in the position to change it for 50 years. They were already in charge.”

But House Speaker Mike Simpson said lawmakers have been thwarted by Democratic governors in past years. With a new Republican governor - who also signed the contract - and a veto-proof majority, Republicans are in position to work their will, he said.

Expect the contract to be carried out swiftly, he said.

“I don’t think there will be a problem with this,” Simpson said. “Some of the stuff is couple-year stuff. Health care reform, welfare reform.”

Simpson said property and water rights protection - critical issues to farmers - are already a high priority, along with property tax relief and reducing budget growth.

Gov. Phil Batt this week proposed moving juvenile justice programs out of the Department of Health and Welfare and he pledged to fight federal claims to Idaho water - both key elements of the contract.

Democrats say that while the majority party is already moving on its agenda, it may be moving in the wrong direction.

Reed said the promise to reform education will be hard for Republicans to keep in a year when they plan to slow public school budget growth. “I don’t think you can change things for the better by supporting a status quo budget for the public schools.”

As for the contract’s promise to roll back regulations, Simpson pointed out that lawmakers will spend the next week in their annual review of all regulations proposed by state agencies. The Legislature has the power to order revisions, he said.

Simpson said health care reform may be the last of the promises to be kept. “That’s the one I’ve heard the least about” from lawmakers, he said.

New North Idaho Republican lawmakers said they hope the public understands that keeping the 10 promises may take time.

“It looked a lot easier when I signed it,” Dorr said. “What with all the hoops and procedures, it looked a lot easier to accomplish than it does now.”

Rep. Don Pischner, R-Coeur d’Alene, agreed. “I didn’t come here feeling that I could set the world on fire. There are a lot of different minds and opinions, there’s a lot of custom,” he said of the Legislature.

Republicans may be preparing to pat themselves on the back for fulfilling the contract, but House Minority Leader Jim Stoicheff called much of the contract “phony.”

“Use balance in protecting our environment? We have never put the interests of fish and birds before people,” Stoicheff said. “We’ve left loopholes for ranchers and farmers. That’s the feds they’re talking about.”

“Get tough on criminals?” Stoicheff said. “Have you ever in all your years seen a bill come through here that says, ‘This one’s going to be easy for the criminals, we love ‘em?’ C’mon, this is all fake junk.”


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