The few liberals and moderates left in Idaho are lucky Gov. Phil Batt is running the government.
A different Republican governor might have run roughshod over superminority Democrats, sold out to business and corporate interests and ignored minorities and the poor.
Batt, on the other hand, has championed minority causes while demanding efficiency, customer service and common sense from state departments. Batt’s State of the State address Monday promised more of the same this year.
Equally important, Batt pledged to continue seeking balance on issues that divide Idahoans.
Said Batt in his speech: “We must harvest our timber and still recover our fish runs; graze our cattle and sheep but protect our riparian areas; encourage our highly productive irrigated farms and agriculture, at the same time improving the quality of our rivers; enjoy the bountiful riches of our mines but carry out complete restoration and refrain from contamination of air and water.”
Balance has been Batt’s trademark - as it was with his popular predecessor, Democrat Cecil Andrus. If anything, Batt has accomplished things Andrus couldn’t because Batt belongs to the majority party. In fact, as state GOP chairman before he ran for governor, Batt energized the Idaho Republican Party. It owes him.
Last year, as a result, he was able to win passage of a controversial bill that outlawed the workers’ compensation exemption for agriculture. The bill, which had failed numerous times in previous legislatures, was approved after an uninsured Hispanic worker lost three limbs in a farm accident. Now, Batt has promised to provide medical care and schooling for legal aliens, no matter what Congress does, and wants to improve educational opportunities for Hispanics.
In his speech, he also called for needed campaign finance reform that doesn’t favor one party or the other, a re-examination of the teacher tenure system, removal of the “marriage penalty” in the state’s income tax system and a discussion of the state’s growing gambling industry.
In North Idaho, Batt’s speech would have scored a “10” if he had promised to take community colleges off the property tax, as well as equitable distribution of sales tax revenue and additional property tax relief.
Impressively, Batt admitted making mistakes in his first two years as governor. He’ll make more. As long as he continues to seek balance, however, he should remain extremely popular and an odds-on favorite to win re-election if he runs again.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria For the editorial board