BOISE – A new commercial from Keith Allred, the Democratic candidate for Idaho governor, blames GOP Gov. Butch Otter for the state of Idaho’s economy, saying Otter “focused on helping special-interest cronies instead of creating jobs.”
Allred cites a big decline in the rate of personal income growth in Idaho since Otter took office, compared with surrounding states, along with a drop-off from 2006 to 2008 in the growth rate for the state’s gross domestic product.
Otter’s campaign counters that a USA Today article just named Idaho one of the states “leading the nation’s crawl out” of the recession, noting that Idaho rose from 50th in the nation for personal-income growth during the recession years to 10th since the recession officially ended in June 2009.
“National accolades don’t just happen without true leadership,” declared Ryan Panitz, Otter campaign spokesman. “Gov. Otter made the necessary changes to government and got people working together to better our economy.”
Actually, said Boise State University economics professor Don Holley, “The economy’s not doing very poorly, and it’s not doing very well. It’s just like every other state: It’s kind of reached the bottom and not moved off of it.” The best and most up-to-date statistics on the state of the economy, he said, are employment and unemployment. Idaho had very low unemployment rates in the years before the recession, but “we got worse faster than almost anybody else,” led by the collapse of a highly speculative housing market.
Allred’s ad says, “Idaho’s economy, worse than these surrounding states, all on Butch Otter’s watch, because Otter focused on helping special-interest cronies instead of creating jobs. And Otter even tried to raise taxes and fees.”
That last statement refers to Otter’s 2009 proposal for a 10-cent increase in Idaho’s 25-cent per gallon gas tax, plus large increases in vehicle registration fees, among other things, to fund transportation improvements; none passed.
On the cronyism charge, Allred cites the lawsuit by fired Idaho Transportation Director Pam Lowe, which contends she was fired in part for trying to trim a huge contract with politically connected firms, and the multimillion-dollar Idaho Education Network bid award to Qwest over a lower bid.
However, Allred cites no source showing that the alleged cronyism hurt job creation.
“One way to create jobs was to increase the gas tax and registration fees to have the transportation infrastructure improvements that Otter was looking at,” noted Jim Weatherby, political scientist emeritus at Boise State University.
The ad then highlights Allred’s economic plan: “Cut tax rates by closing special-interest tax exemptions, all to create more growth and new jobs,” and concludes, “No wonder so many Republicans have endorsed Keith Allred for governor.”
Weatherby said the ad exaggerates by “blaming Otter for our poor economic performance during the global financial crisis. But governors typically are blamed for poor economic performance of their state, just as they take great credit when the state’s economy does well.”
The ad began airing this week statewide, including the Spokane TV market.